When your baby may need additional care

At Mercy Hospital for Women, our combined Nurseries care for babies who are born unwell or too early (prematurely), as well as those babies born in regional Victoria who need intensive care.

Over 1,300 premature and sick infants are cared for at Mercy Hospital for Women each year.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit provides intensive care to the smallest and sickest babies, who often need help to breathe. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is co-located next to the Special Care Nursery, which provides close observation and care for babies who are stable, and do not need help to breathe. Babies in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit may transition to the Special Care Nursery before they go home.

Mercy Hospital for Women is a major teaching hospital and specialist referral centre. We have 61 cots made up of 28 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit cots and 33 Special Care Nursery cots, which together are referred to as Neonatal Services. We are one of just four Neonatal Intensive Care Units in Victoria. We care for infants admitted to the nursery within the first 28 days of life with gestations as low as 23 weeks. Our multidisciplinary team consists of doctors, nurses, care managers, social workers and many more disciplines.

While some premature births will be expected, others will happen due to an emergency. Your obstetric team will arrange for you to speak to a Neonatal Paediatrican before your baby’s birth. A tour of our combined nursery can be arranged.

What to expect in the nursery

While your baby is in our nursery, you will not need to bring clothes or nappies. However, if you have a special toy or blanket for your baby, please feel free to place it at your baby’s bedside.

When your baby is first admitted to the nursery, it can be hard to remember all of the information you receive. We will give you a booklet with important information on our hospital practices to read in your own time.

We welcome parents to come to the nursery, ask questions, or call at any time of the day or night. We do not think of parents as visitors and we encourage you to spend as much time as possible with your baby.

How long can babies stay in the nursery?

Premature babies are usually ready to go home around the time they reach full term, although this varies from baby to baby. Some premature babies may stay beyond their due date.

There is no special weight that babies must reach to be able to go home, but your baby must be feeding well and gaining weight, and you must be confident in giving your baby the care they need. For babies born with problems at term, their length of stay in hospital depends on the nature of the problems.

Mercy Hospital for Women is a hospital for high risk infants, who need specialist care. Due to state-wide demands on our care services, we may need to move your baby to a local Special Care Nursery closer to your home. This creates space for new babies who need to be in our hospital for intensive care or specialist treatment.

We make the decision to transfer your baby to a local nursery in your family’s best interest; it is a positive and exciting step towards getting your baby ready to be discharged home. Where possible, babies are transferred to the hospital where their birth was booked. This means you can visit more often and contact local medical and maternal child health services for ongoing support. Babies are transferred by PIPER (Paediatric, Infant, Perinatal Emergency Retrieval) in a specialised neonatal transport ambulance. All babies are cared for by a specially trained nurse. Our discharge staff will explain the transfer process to you.


Information and support networks for premature babies


  • Website: www.austprem.org.au
  • About:

    Through Austprem, families who have experienced the complex challenges of parenting a premature infant reach out to other families facing this journey, and offer friendship, information and support.

Miracle Babies

  • Website: www.miraclebabies.org.au
  • About:

    Miracle Babies Foundation supporting families with premature and sick babies.


Australian Breastfeeding Association

  • Website: www.breastfeeding.asn.au
  • About:

    As Australia’s leading authority on breastfeeding, we support, educate and advocate for a breastfeeding inclusive society.

Other information and support networks

PANDA National Helpline

  • Phone numbers:

    PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline
    1300 726 306
    9am-7:30pm, Monday to Friday

  • Website: panda.org.au
  • About:

    PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and early parenthood. PANDA operates Australia’s only National Helpline for individuals and their families to recover from perinatal anxiety and depression, a serious illness that affects up to one in five expecting or new mums and one in ten expecting or new dads.


  • Phone numbers:

    beyondblue Support Service
    1300 224 636
    24 hours, 7 days a week

  • Website: beyondblue.org.au
  • About:

    Equipping everyone in Australia with the knowledge and skills to achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. We give people the confidence to support those around them, and make anxiety, depression and suicide part of everyday conversations. And as well as tackling stigma, prejudice and discrimination, we’re breaking down the barriers that prevent people from speaking up and reaching out.

    Services avialable through the beyondblue website include:

    • Call
    • Chat online
    • Email
    • Online forums

    If you require immediate support, please contact the beyondblue Support Service.

Association for Children with a Disability

  • Website: www.acd.org.au
  • About:

    ACD works to improve the lives of children with a disability and their families.

Relationships Australia

  • Website: www.relationships.org.au
  • About:

    Relationships Australia provides relationship support services to enhance human and family relationships.  These services are offered in many locations across Australia.

Australian Multiple Birth Association

  • Website: www.amba.org.au
  • About:

    Tips about what to expect while you are pregnant, information on common issues for multiple birth, and useful information if you are already a multiple birth family.


  • Website: www.sands.org.au
  • About:

    Volunteer parent supporters offering a real sense of understanding and hope to bereaved parents as they too have been through the devastating loss of a baby.

Red Nose

  • Website: rednose.com.au
  • About:

    Information and education helping save the lives of babies and children and supporting people impacted by the death of a child.

Better Health Channel

Information on premature outcomes

Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network

  • Website: www.anznn.net
  • About:

    The Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network (ANZNN) is a collaborative network that monitors the care of high risk newborn infants by pooling data to provide quality assurance for this resource consuming care.

Victorian Infant Collaborative Study (VICS)

  • Website: vics-infantstudy.org.au
  • About:

    Information and support for the parents and families of prematurely born infants. VICS is a collaboration between the Royal Women’s Hospital, Mercy Hospital for Women, Monash Medical Centre and the Royal Children’s Hospital. It is a long term study of prematurely born infants throughout their childhood and into adulthood.

Last reviewed September 28, 2017.

Your labour and birth

Your labour and birth is one of the most amazing experiences you will have. It is our privilege to help you prepare for labour, and to provide care and support for you and your loved ones in our birth suite at the Mercy Hospital for Women.

Your labour and birth

During your postnatal stay

It is important that you enjoy the precious time after your baby is born. Knowing what to expect after birth, and the support we give you, is helpful in taking each day at a time as you get to know your baby.

During your postnatal stay