Welcome to the third blog in this series. The language and jargon that’s used in the NICU can be quite daunting and sometimes you need help to remember those terms or just another set of words to explain them so they make sense! Never be afraid to ask the nurses and doctors looking after your baby questions, even if you’ve asked them before. No question is silly and you are not being a pain by asking. This time we are looking at what C is for.

Medical jargon

Cardiologist – this is a heart specialist doctor. A term I’m very familiar with! My son was under the care of two amazing cardiologists for his SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia).

Central catheter/central line – this is a thin tube placed in a larger vein or artery and it delivers medication. They can also be inserted into the umbilical cord shortly after birth, which I found amazing! This means that your baby has one less needle breaking their skin. The umbilical cord still falls off though after a few days so this isn’t a long term solution if medication needs to continue.

Chem strip – this is a special strip of paper that determines how much sugar is in your baby’s blood.

Chest tube – this is a small plastic tube that is inserted through the chest wall between the lung and chest wall. It removes air or fluid that shouldn’t be there.

Congenital – this just means that the condition was existing at the time of your baby’s birth.

CPAP – this stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It’s a type of ventilator which helps to keep your baby’s lungs properly expanded. This ventilator doesn’t breathe for your baby but allows them to breathe into a “wind”

CT scan – this is a computerised scan that can be done on any part of the baby. With premature babies CT scans are commonly done on their head to look at their brain.

Cyanosis – This is when not enough oxygen is in the blood and it turns the skin a blue colour.

Stethoscope. Photography credit: Hush Naidoo
Stethoscope. Photography credit: Hush Naidoo

Emotional C’s

These aren’t NICU terms but this journey will be an emotional rollercoaster. There will be lots of highs and lows and you don’t always know how to describe what you’re feeling.

Confused – Your time in the NICU might be really confusing especially in the earlier days. Lots of information is thrust upon you and everything feels urgent and time sensitive. It’s normal to feel confused. The staff are on hand though to help guide you through.

Clueless – you won’t always feel this way. At the start there is so much to take in and unless you are medically trained you may struggle with some of the things you see and hear. You soon adjust and get a sense of the language used and you will find confidence to ask questions and push when you don’t understand.

Crummy – it’s ok to not feel your best. You’re in a crummy situation, after all this was not how you imagined having your child would be. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself and just take it a day at a time. take it an hour at a time if you need to!

A few more

Crushed – Some feel so deflated and the word ‘crushed’ seemed to fit the description perfectly. It doesn’t happen overnight but it gets better and feels less crushing the more you are around the NICU. Seeing other families going home and making friends will help.

Choked – there were a few occasions when I experienced complete overwhelm. I needed to get out of the room. I needed to breathe and just be on my own for a few minutes. Going to the expressing room or to the bathroom to splash a bit of cold water on my face always helped.

Upset woman. Photography credit: Kat J
Upset woman. Photography credit: Kat J

Conflicted – the main point of conflict for most I think is how long to stay at the NICU. This was one of the few discrepancies with the nurses as well. Some nurses would tell me to go home and rest they were there to look after my little boy, others thought I needed to be there more (on average I spent 12 hours a day there). I also knew parents who had other children at home who were so conflicted on whether to be with their baby or their other children.

It’s not all bad

Calm – occasionally there were periods of calm when all the babies would behave. That sensation was so comforting and it would feel like a heavy weight was lifted, even if it was only a temporary lift it was worth it!

Considerate – you are suddenly in a place where lots of people can understand to an extent what you are going through. They are kind and considerate with their words and actions. Even the uncommunicated support is strong.

Content – I found that skin to skin cuddle time was when I was the most content. It would have been a better experience at home but you make the most of the happy moments and these were definitely my happy moments.

Caring – There is a lot of care that goes around a neonatal unit. The staff care for both the babies and the parents. The parents care for their babies and the staff. It’s a bond like no other and something you aren’t likely to experience in the same way ever again either.

Cheerful – cheerful people used to really grate on me if I wasn’t in a happy mood too. On the NICU though I was seeking those cheerful people as they would unknowingly give me a boost. It surprised me when it happened but some people’s happiness is infectious and I needed some of the good stuff!

Comfortable – you will very quickly become very comfortable on the neonatal unit. It is pretty much your second home throughout your baby’s stay.

Courageous – your preemie will be the most courageous thing you will see. Others will see that it wasn’t only your baby but you too were courageous through this journey.

Swaddled baby on a drip. Photography credit: Sharon McCutcheon
Swaddled baby on a drip. Photography credit: Sharon McCutcheon


Confident – this is something that will grow over time. To start you may not be confident in doing your baby’s cares or being around them in general. It’s all new so you don’t always know what to do with yourself. Stick with it, you soon find a confidence that will surprise you!

Hopefully this blog series is useful. We are not medical professionals and all the medical terms have been researched using the NHS and Public Health England websites

Did you see

Did you see our last blog in this series Preemie A-Z covering all things B.