Patient Resource Center

Neonatology

​What is neonatology?

The medical specialty of caring for newborn babies, especially critically ill and premature babies is called neonatology.

Why would your baby be referred to a neonatologist?

Neonatologists practice in a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and provide care to premature or full-term newborns that experience congenital conditions, illness, life-threatening conditions or infant complications related to pregnancy or birth. Babies are admitted to the NICU directly from the delivery room, newborn nursery, other hospitals, or other health care facilities that do not have a NICU.

Your Pediatrician or Family Practice physician can handle many health problems of your newborn, but the neonatologists are specially-trained to handle complex and high-risk situations. If a complication or potential risk is identified before your baby is born, your obstetrician, family practice physician, or midwife may consult with a neonatologist.

Neonatologists will provide care to newborns at the time of delivery or cesarean section if there are medical problems present in the mother or baby that may compromise a baby’s health.  

What are some medical concerns
of premature babies?

If your baby is born premature, which is before 39 weeks gestation, the baby’s organs are immature, which could cause a number of problems.

Some examples that a premature baby may demonstrate include:

  • Immature lungs; may require a baby to need extra oxygen or assistance with breathing

  • Immature brain; may cause the baby to have challenges with regular breathing and coordination of sucking and breathing.

  • Immature stomach and intestines; may require baby to receive its nutrition through an IV until they are able to digest breast milk or formula.

  • Immature immune system; may decrease the baby’s ability to fight infections.

  • Immature liver; making the more susceptible to jaundice.

What are some medical concerns of
full-term babies?

If your baby is born full term, which is after 39 weeks gestation, potential reasons for admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can include:

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Birth complications

  • Infection

  • Congenital conditions

  • Newborn jaundice

  • Blood sugar instability

  • Conditions requiring closer observation

What additional resources does the neonatologist have in caring for my baby?

  • Access to pediatric specialist

  • Developmental Care

  • Pediatric Developmental Therapist – physical therapist,  speech therapist, and occupational therapist

  • Pediatric dietician

  • Pediatric pharmacist

  • Lactation support

  • NICU designated respiratory therapist

  • Case management

Which physician do I follow up with once my baby leaves the NICU?

A neonatologist only provides specialized care for newborns within the NICU environment. When your baby is discharged from the NICU, a neonatologist will contact your pediatrician or family physician to provide a summary of care provided. This transfer of care is to ensure that your newborn continues to receive excellent care.

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