Approximately 10–15% of term babies may require admission to neonatal special care units. This level of care is frequently an unexpected event for parents.

To review the frequency and obstetric risk factors associated with the admission of term neonates to a tertiary hospital special care unit (SCN).

Materials and Methods
All babies born ≥37‐weeks gestation admitted to the SCN at King Edward Memorial Hospital between 2004 and 2006 were identified from the institutional maternity and neonatal databases. Maternal and obstetric factors were reviewed to identify potential predictors of admission to the SCN.

During the study period, 1671 term neonates born to 1624 women were admitted to the SCN (14.4% of term deliveries). Neonatal intensive care unit admissions accounted for 10.6% of the term admissions. The most common reasons for SCN admission were respiratory complications (n = 421, 25.2%), observation postresuscitation (n = 402, 24.1%) and hypoglycaemia (n = 152, 9.1%). Elective caesarean delivery was significantly associated with admission to the special care unit for respiratory complications compared with all other delivery modes (37 vs 23%, P < 0.001), particularly if the birth occurred at <39‐weeks gestation (38 vs 24%, P < 0.001). Conclusions In our population of women delivering at a tertiary maternity facility, approximately 1:8 term babies were admitted to the neonatal special care unit. Elective caesarean delivery was associated with a significant risk of admission for respiratory complications compared with other birth modes, especially when <39‐weeks gestation.