NICU and SCN Acronyms. A guide for parents of twins and triplets facing a NICU or SCN stay.

NICU and SCN Acronyms can be very confusing. Especially when these terms relate to your tiny babies. This list may help you navigate those early days

Please note: This glossary is not a substitute for advice from a health professional.  Terms may vary from hospital to hospital.  Please consult your health care professional for full details.

You can find our Multiple Birth Glossary HERE.


  • Adjusted age – Adjusted age (or corrected age), is your premature baby’s chronological age minus the number of weeks or months he was born early. For example, a one-year-old who was born three months early would have a corrected age of nine months.
  • AGA – appropriate for gestational age.
  • Apgar Score – The Apgar score is a system used by doctors and midwives to assess your newborn baby’s health at birth. It helps medical staff decide if your baby needs medical or emergency care.
  • Apnea monitors –  Detects the cessation of breathing (apnoea) in infants
  • Apnoea – A short period of time when the baby does not take a breath.
  • Aspirate – To inhale fluids, such as milk, into the windpipe or lungs. Also refers to the removal of fluid by suction (e.g. checking how much milk remains in the stomach)


  • Bili lights – Fluorescent lights that help reduce jaundice. Also called phototherapy.
  • Bilirubin – A breakdown product of red blood cells, which can cause a yellowish colouring of the skin.
  • BPD – Bronchopulmonary dysplasia.  A form of chronic lung disease that can affect premature babies.
  • Brady – See bradycardia.
  • Bradycardia – The medical term for a heart rate that is slower than normal.
twins in special care


  • Caffeine – Used to help regulate premature babies breathing by stimulating the part of the brain that signals the lungs to inflate.
  • Cares – Caring for your baby i.e. changing a nappy, bathing or feeding.
  • Central Line – A small, thin plastic tube that allows fluids to be administered or removed from the body.
  • Chest tube – A tube inserted through the chest wall. It is used to suction fluids or air from the chest.
  • Chronological age – A baby’s age as determined by counting the number of days, weeks, or years from the day of birth.
  • CLD – Chronic lung disease.
  • Colostrum – The first form of milk produced by the breast after birth. It is particularly rich in nutrients. 
  • Corrected age – see adjusted age.
  • C-PAP – Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a type of respiratory support. In premature babies CPAP is delivered through a set of nasal prongs or through a small mask that fits snugly over a baby’s nose.


  • Desat – see desaturation.
  • Desaturation – A drop in the oxygen levels in the blood.


  •  EBM – Expressed breast milk.
  • Echocardiogram – A ultrasound examination of the heart.
  • Edema – The collection of extra fluid in body tissues, causing swelling or puffiness of skin.
  • ETT -Endotracheal tube. A flexible plastic tube placed through the mouth into the trachea (windpipe) to help a patient breathe. The endotracheal tube is connected to a ventilator, to deliver oxygen to the lungs.


  • F – Milk fortifier
  • FTT – Doctors say children “fail to thrive” when they don’t gain weight as expected.


  • Gestational age – The length of time from conception to birth (how long the baby stays in the womb).


  • Heart murmur – An unusual or extra sound heard between the normal heartbeat sounds.
  • High-flow oxygen – Therapy given by nasal cannula to infants that adds heat, humidity and extra pressure to the oxygen.
  • HMF – Human milk fortifiers are commercially-produced, usually cow-milk-based, multi-nutrient fortifiers used to supplement the mother’s breastmilk.
  • HR -Heart rate.
  • Humidicrib – A temperature controlled incubator used for the care of premature babies.
  • Hydrocephalus – Excess spinal fluid causing enlargement of the ventricles in the brain.


  • Jaundice – Neonatal jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the white part of the eyes and skin in a newborn baby due to high bilirubin levels.


  • Kangaroo cuddle – Babies wear only a nappy and are placed in an upright position directly on a parent’s bare chest and covered with a blanket.


  • Low birthweight – birthweight of less than 2.5kg.
  • Lumbar puncture – A lumbar puncture is performed to sample the fluid that sits around the brain and spinal cord.


  • Meds – Medication.


  • Nasal cannula – Soft plastic tubing that goes around a baby’s head and under the nose, where there are openings (prongs) to deliver oxygen.
  • NEC – Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a medical condition where a portion of the bowel dies.
  • Neonate– A newborn, up to 28 days of age (post-term).
  • NGT – Nasogastric tube feeding – This is when a baby is fed through a small soft tube, which is placed in the nose and runs down the back of the throat, through the food pipe (oesophagus) and into the stomach.
  • NICU – A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a hospital intensive care unit that specialises in looking after premature and sick newborn babies.  


  • Oedema – Swelling caused by excess fluid in the tissues under the skin.
  • OGT – Orogastric tube feeding .  A baby is fed through a small soft tube, which is placed in the mouth and runs down the back of the throat, through the food pipe (oesophagus) and into the stomach.
  • Open Cot – The baby is moved from an isolette/humdicrib to a cot.


  • PDA– Patent Ductus Arteriosus is a heart problem that is commonly seen in premature babies.
  • Prongs – nasal tubing to deliver oxygen.
  • Pulmonary hypertension –  a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs
  • Purple Butterfly initiative – a simple and sensitive way to let others know about the loss of a baby, or babies, from a set of multiples.  Purple Butterflies to be displayed on infants’ beds while in hospital so that families are given the support and understanding that they need from staff and other parents.


  • ROP – Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disease that can happen in premature babies.


  • SATs – A measurement of your blood oxygen is called your oxygen saturation level.
  • SCN – A special care nursery (SCN) has specialist doctors, nurses, other professionals and equipment to care for premature babies. Babies in the SCN are healthier and stronger than babies in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
  • Sepsis –  A life-threatening illness caused by your body’s response to an infection.
  • Sepsis – An infection caused by bacteria.
  • Skin to skin – See Kangaroo cuddle.
  • SNS – The Supplemental Nursing System allows supplemental nutrition to babies while they are being breastfed.


  • Tube feed – see NGT.


  • Ventilator – A medical ventilator (or simply ventilator in context) is a machine designed to provide mechanical ventilation by moving breathable air into and out of the lungs, to deliver breaths to a patient who is physically unable to breathe, or breathing insufficiently.
NICU and triplets


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