Each year, September is set aside nationally for recognition of the hardships undergone in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) across the country.
The circumstances which cause families and their newborns to find themselves in NICU facilities are trying in themselves. The rising numbers of premature births alongside a variety of post-birth conditions gives pro-lifers another bioethical conundrum to confront. The opposing argument is steadily spewed: “the pro-life movement is concerned with babies before they are born and not after the child is here.”
This month presents pro-life activists all over the country and the world an opportunity to continue to defend the lives of the preborn into what medical specialists and parents alike have described as the “first and hardest moments” of the child’s life. Of course, this is not an action the pro-life movement should take in response to criticism but because it is the next logical step in the present platform of protecting life.
Services provided by NICU’s, which are given up to 28 days after birth, include those human functions which we may take for granted. These functions include breathing, regulating body temperature, and intake of nutrients via feeding.
These facilities are particularly necessary to regulate the cleanliness of the environment in which the child is in since the neonatal period consists of high levels of vulnerability to infection.
Neonatal services offer four levels of care for newborn babies:
- Well Newborn Nursery:
- Stabilize babies born 35-37 weeks
2. Special Care Nursery:
- children >32 weeks or >1500 grams who are otherwise stable
- Oxygen therapy including a ventilator or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
3. Neonatal Intensive Care Units:
- <32 weeks or 1500 grams Preterm with critical illness
- Interventions including intravenous nutrition, insertions organs, pediatric and surgical specialties, respiratory assistance and advanced imaging
4. Regional NICUs:
- Comprehensive surgical care (all ages and weights)
- Physical external/internal malformations, complex or rare conditions-
- Transport, outreach, and education
Much of the specific pro-life message must convince women of more than the truth that life is precious, inherently valuable, and worth saving. These truths may not be enough to convince mothers to choose life for their preborn baby, particularly those women who endure hardships or may find themselves under some other shortcoming which coerces them to take the life of their child. We must know the particular argument we are trying to mount.
What about the women who know their children are prone to or will have certain complications? What about the women who are aware of the need for neonatal care but cannot receive such treatment, let alone the appropriate medical means to have the baby?
This may seem like an unwarranted reach by us who will go to the ends of the earth to birth our children. However, it is not so far fetched to propose this line of reasoning as the cause for various abortions over the decades. It will not be met with facts but instead will be met with a similar mantra— once the baby is born, there will be no one to aid the newborn’s life thereafter. It is at this point pro-lifers must step in and aid in the promotion of neonatal resources.
Advances have been made, both technologically and methodologically which include personal neonatal care techniques. Such techniques range from the nuanced basics of feeding and burping newborns to the particular ways to position newborns when holding them. These care methods are easily accessible online and in a majority of free maternal informational brochures.
We as pro-lifers should support women and provide them with the necessary care to aid in preventing issues that lead to babies requiring NICU care. Such support includes tips on how help avoid premature birth as that is one of the leading causes of babies needing NICU hospitalization.
Women should also consult their doctor to check for uterus infections, thyroid problems, and more common mild conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure and see what can be done to mitigate those conditions without a medication which would have an adverse effect on the baby.
Precautions can even be taken before the decision to get pregnant is made. Despite narrow research conducted on “assisted reproductive technology,” the present research does indicate such methods as catalysts for complications during pregnancy.
The final and oft-overlooked component of the childbearing process is mental health. Women should certainly avoid situations and environments of high stress and also avoid or mitigate depression. Support groups and activities with other mothers can provide comfort throughout undeniable changes, hormone and otherwise, occurring in the body. A woman’s primary care doctor or OBGYN may also be able to recommend a counselor or therapist.
Although the womb is a much different environment than the outside world, precautions can be taken and knowledge can be imparted to keep the baby strong both inside the womb and once the child finally arrives.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.