How are babies preserved in incubators?

The function of an incubator is to help sustain the life of prematurely born babies who, because of their low weight and weak general constitution, have diminished viability. For such babies, weighing Perhaps as little as a kilogram, at birth, the incubator provides an ideal life environment, capable of being varied to suit specific requirement, characterized by: sterility (freedom from germs), temperature (up to 37 degrees Centigrade), relative atmospheric humidity (up to 100 per cent), an oxygen concentration (40 per cent) which is about twice the normal oxygen content in the atmosphere.

From the technical point of view, the incubator is a special air-conditioned chamber with its own climate-control system. A built-in motor draws in fresh air, which is freed from germs by passing through a bacterial filter and then flows through a thermostatically controlled heating system and a water evaporator. If necessary, oxygen is added. Because of the continuous inflow of air – at a rate of about 6 litres per minute – a slight excess pressure in relation to the surrounding atmosphere is maintained in the incubator. This ensures that the airflow is always directed outwards and the exhaled carbon dioxide is carried away and no external air can penetrate through any small leaks that may be present in the enclosure.

Normally, the prematurely born baby is kept continuously in the incubator for the first few weeks of its life. All nursing manipulations are done by means of special holes through which the nurse inserts her arms and which are provided with sealing devices that fit closely around the arms.

 The baby is fed, weighed. (By means of built-in scales) cleaned and medically treated inside the incubator. Minor operations, transfusions and x-ray photography can likewise be done without having to remove the baby from the incubator.

 The incubator is equipped with various safety devices which sound a warning and/or take preventive action in the event of a failure in the electric power, water or oxygen supply, or if the temperature in the incubator should become too high or low, or if the oxygen concentration becomes too high.