• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Neonatology: Everything You Need to Know About A Neonatologist and Neonatology

New born children have a variety of needs. They need to be looked and cared for in a very comprehensive way. At this stage of their lives, when they have just come out of their mother’s womb, these children are susceptible to many diseases and complications. They may even have an injury or an illness, that if not properly analysed, may remain undiagnosed. To enable your new born child to lead a healthy life before and after he or she comes out of the womb, the importance of a neonatologist cannot be denied. They are trained intensively in handling the complex concerns and situations that involve a new born child.

It is through the efforts of a neonatologist that people are able to find out the specific needs of their child and devise a suitable care plan for them. Many people tend to get confused and are  unable to discover a difference between a neonatologist and pediatrician. It is normal as a pediatrician is also intensively involved in diagnosing and solving health issues of newborns. Yet, a fine line exists between the two. Let us try to understand the domain of neonatology in greater detail.

What exactly does a neonatologist do?

Neonatology

Mother with a pediatrician, Credit: Canva


A neonatologist is fully specialised in providing care for those babies who are severely ill at the time of their birth. Due to them being ill they can contract and develop various defects and diseases. Neonatologists work with newborns who are birthed prematurely, have low birth weight, and are underdeveloped. These specialists work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as it is here that all those newborns who are born with critical health issues are kept. Some of the duties of a neonatologist include:

Helping with problematic deliveries

After an obstetrician detects any kind of defect in the baby before he or she is born, a neonatologist is called for at the time of delivery. They are required to deal with the complications of the baby and undertake certain specialised procedures necessary to stabilize the condition of the baby.

Assisting with nutritional deficiencies and providing proper medication

Many babies who are critically ill at the time of their birth suffer from an underdeveloped digestive system. They require different ways of feeding to attain growth and development. A neonatologist looks into the nutritional needs of these babies and undertakes procedures to administer medication and nutrition to them.

Assisting parents of severely ill babies

A critically ill baby can become a source of much stress to his/her parents. A neonatologist helps the parents of an ill child to better understand their needs and informs them about the treatment courses that will help their child. They also provide emotional and mental support to the parents of such children.

Many people wonder, Is a neonatologist a doctor? Yes, they are. They are physicians who are specialised in the branch of neonatology or catering to the needs of critically ill newborns.

What is the difference between a pediatrician and a neonatologist?

Pediatrician and neonatologist

Mother and child with a pediatrician, Credit: Canva


Pediatricians and neonatologists both deal with the care and support of infants. However, they both are different professions. A pediatrician is a person who deals with the medical care of newborn children and adolescents. But a neonatologist specialises only in neonatology. It is a branch that is a sub part of pediatrics. Neonatologists only deal with newborn babies, unlike pediatrics who deal with children of all age groups. Neonatology as a discipline is practiced in the NICUs or the intensive care units made specially for the new born babies.

Reading about them, you may wonder, How many years does it take to become a neonatologist? Neonatologists need to specialize in neonatology after completing a residency period of three years in pediatrics, and, after that, they need to undergo an additional training of three years in the newborn intensive care unit.

Differences in the Roles of a Neonatologist and a Pediatrician

Pediatrician and neonatologist difference

Mother with a pediatrician, Credit: Canva


There are differences in the roles, duties and responsibilities of both neonatologist and a pediatrician. A pediatrician is basically involved in examining a new born child for any health complications. He or she may perform circumcision, administer immunizations, and prescribe medications to children who are ill. Besides, they also answer the questions of parents whose children show defects at birth or at any other phase of their lives. Another duty of a pediatrician is to educate parents of a new born baby of the suitable care practices that they can adopt.

The work of a neonatologist, on the other hand, is confined only to the new born babies. They spend their time treating newborn babies that have health conditions and illnesses. They also manage and create care plans for newborn babies. A neonatologist is needed during the time of a high risk birth. Without their presence, the chances of a successful delivery reduces. They also offer consultation to parents and provide suitable follow up care.

Thus, neonatologists are indispensable to enable the growth and development of critically ill infants. As you may now be aware of, the needs and requirements of severely ill newborn babies are different than a healthy baby. They require specialised care, treatment and follow up plans which only a neonatologist can provide. Diagnosing problems at birth is crucial to enabling a child to live a healthy life. Many times, babies come out of the womb of their mothers without being fully developed. Other times, vital organs like the heart, brain, lungs, digestive system, among others may not be adequately developed. In such a scenario, the services of a neonatologist prove immensely useful.

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