The crucial role of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in treating preterm births

By Eve Bandusena | Writer for Parents Avenue

All images via Getty Images

What is considered a preterm birth

A preterm newborn is defined as a baby who is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.  Preterm birth can be divided into 3 groups- extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks), very preterm (28 to 32 weeks), and moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks). 

“There is about a half-million of live births in Malaysia annually and an estimated about 12-13% are preterm births,” says Dr. Matthew Chong Hon Loon, Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital.

Causes of preterm birth

 “The most common reason for preterm birth is spontaneous labour with no cause identified. Other causes of preterm birth include multiple pregnancies, infections, and maternal chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  Some are due to early induction of labour or caesarean birth for medical or non-medical reasons,” added Dr. Matthew.

The mortality rate of preterm births

Mortality and morbidity of preterm birth are high. The more preterm a baby, the higher the risks and severity of complications. The role of a country and facility centre also comes into play. A preterm newborn is at risk of medical complications or problems related to the incomplete development of its organ systems.

These problems may include difficulty with breathing, unable to adapt the room temperature, feeding, bleeding in the brain, as well as immature eyes and intestines. However, with medical advancement in intensive neonatal care, the outcome of premature babies is improving all the time.

Dr. Matthew Chong Hon Loon, Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as the priority treatment for preterm births

“It is important that preterm newborn to be delivered in a centre which has a well-equipped Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It’s an intensive care unit specializing in care for a preterm or ill newborn. The unit is overseen by a neonatologist and is staffed with specially trained nurses who have experience taking care of an ill newborn,” says Dr. Matthew.


Successful treatment at Gleneagles Hospital Kota Kinabalu

“Recently, we had a preterm newborn at 28 weeks gestation born in Gleneagles Hospital Kota Kinabalu. The baby was ventilated and put on incubator care in NICU. With this smooth transition, the baby is doing well and discharged home with no lung, eyes, intestines and brain complication,”

*Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital is currently the only hospital in Kota Kinabalu within the private sector offering NICU.




Additional Information

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is an intensive care unit also known as specialized nurseries for premature or ill newborn infants. Neonatal refers to the first 28 days of life. The NICU is overseen by a Neonatologist and is staffed with specially trained nurses that have undergone neonatal intensive care orientation in addition to their general nursing knowledge to provide highly specialized care for critical newborns. NICU uses special equipment such as ventilator, incubator, cooling therapy to stabilize ill newborn. Common reasons why your baby might be sent to NICU include prematurity, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), sepsis or infection, meconium aspiration syndrome, hypoglycaemia, and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.



Neonatologists are pediatricians that are specially trained to care for newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). These doctors are specially trained to care for newborns that are in high-risk situations, including preterm newborns. A preterm newborn is a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

A neonatologist also coordinates care and monitor critically ill newborns that required surgical intervention. They will make sure the newborn receive optimum care.

The neonatologist will liaise with your OB/GYN during your pregnancy if a condition or issue is known before a baby is born. They will be present at delivery and provide immediate care for high-risk pregnancies.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you.

For more information, visit our website at call us at 088-518-888 or drop by our hospital Riverson @ Sembulan, Block A-1, Lorong Riverson @ Sembulan, Borneo, 1, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.