This High Tech Incubator Just for C-Section Babies Mimics the Natural Birth Experience

No birth canal, no problem.
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ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Feb 2018
rendering of a high tech incubator
Photo: NnBU

Engineers Claus Peters and Johannes Schenck met in a prenatal class. As the instructor explained alternative birthing methods, like c-sections, the dads-to-be learned how the vaginal delivery process is crucial to a newborn’s immune system. They wondered: Could there be a way to recreate a more natural birth experience for babies delivered via c-section? So began the invention of the Neonatal Birth Unit.

The Neonatal Birth Unit, or NnBU, is an incubator-like device designed exclusively for c-section babies immediately after delivery. It aims to recreate the feel and conditions of a vaginal birth for baby so that their bodies can respond appropriately.

Once inside the heated device, a baby is positioned face-down to support the draining of any remaining fetal lung fluid. Varying amounts of pressure are applied to the baby’s torso, mimicking the journey through the birth canal from initial contractions to delivery. During the final phase of pressure, the baby’s fontanel receives a special light treatment to “kick-start light-sensitive regions of the brain,” according to a paper on the device.

Another cool feature of the NbBU: It uses blockchain—yep, the technology you probably associate with cryptocurrency like Bitcoin—for enhanced security. Only “suitably qualified medical staffers who have been trained in the use of the device” will be able to operate it. And the data regarding your baby’s treatment, which becomes part of their medical record, should be ultra secure.

The NbBU hasn’t actually been used yet, but the prototype has received a patent. Peters and Schenck say if everything goes well, development and hospital certification should take two years at most.

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