By SMH NICU Medical Director Rebecca Schilling, DO
The concept sounds dreamy. A couple expecting a bundle of joy plans one last getaway before the sleepless nights begin. A simple google search of 'babymoon' brings up all the new mom websites and their 'top babymoon destinations.' While planning this trip may bring visions of white sands and relaxation to an expectant couple, it brings sweaty palms and heart palpitations to your friendly neighborhood neonatologists.
It should come as no surprise that Sarasota is an ideal destination for pregnant couples. Our beautiful beaches and low-key vibes make for an idyllic getaway. And more than 3 million tourists came to our city in 2021. But they're probably not hoping to see the NICU.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Sarasota Memorial Hospital cares for the smallest and most fragile of infants. But ask any of the staff there and, while we love what we do, our fervent hope is that you and your loved ones never have to come visit us. There are myriad risks that come along with a premature infant, who needs all the help we can give. But close behind is taking care of fragile and fearful parents who have to stand by and watch as we take over the care of their little one until they are strong enough to be discharged.
And it can be quite a stay. A baby born extremely premature may have to stay months in the NICU.
The SMH NICU has had no less than seven 'babymoon' babies born early and unexpectedly in our area in the last 18 months. Some born as young as 25 weeks. And these families may be considered the 'lucky' ones. They have had their babies in a city where there is an OB Emergency room and Level 3 NICU ready for their arrival. While premature and unexpected deliveries are standard practice for this team, it's a far different experience for the families.
Not only do these families have to worry about their baby but now they are far from home and all their support. Our SMH NICU is open and available to families 24/7 but the staff always encourages families to have a respite from the beeping and constant motion of a NICU. We see these families search out temporary housing, work remotely, communicate with family by phone, navigate a new city, worry over travel with a fragile infant after discharge, negotiate transfer of breast milk cross county and countless other small inconveniences that may seem overwhelming in the face of a sick infant.
For better or worse, our team is ready! We are there with recommendations and reassurances. We help families focus on what is most important (getting their baby home!) and encouraging them to let the rest go. We wrap these families in a little extra love because we see how hard their journey has been.
It’s definitely no vacation.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) does not make official restrictions on travel during pregnancy as many women travel safely at all gestational ages. However, the organization does provide some guidance on preparing for a health emergency while traveling. This includes locating the nearest hospital at your destination and checking whether they accept your health insurance. As always it is important to check with your healthcare provider before any major travel plan during pregnancy.
The reality is, if you're traveling while pregnant, you have to know you may deliver at your destination. And if your destination is the Sarasota area, your team at SMH is ready!
To learn more about maternity services at SMH, including our Level III NICU, click here.
To find support groups, childbirth classes and even take a virtual tour of the Mother-Baby Unit, check the Childbirth Education Calendar here.