What is a Neonatologist?
When you have a newborn, dealing with the unexpected can be the scariest thing about being a new parent. One of those scary moments is when you’re referred to a neonatologist. What is a neonatologist? Is seeing one reason to be alarmed? We’ll explain what a neonatologist does and why your baby might need to see one.
What is a neonatologist?
You might be wondering about the difference between a pediatrician and a neonatologist. While a pediatrician is qualified to handle most of your baby’s medical care, a neonatologist specializes in providing care in complex and high-risk situations. The word ‘neonatologist’ breaks down literally to mean ‘the science of the newborn.’
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a neonatologist attends four years (or more) of medical school, three years of residency in general pediatrics and an additional three years of training in intensive care for newborns. That’s a minimum of ten years of education specifically to provide the best care for your infant.
Why do I need to see a neonatologist?
If a complication is identified while you are still pregnant, a neonatologist may be called in to advise your obstetrician up until your delivery. A neonatologist may assist with premature births, C-sections and births where there is some other complication, like a birth defect or serious illness of the baby.
A neonatologist can help diagnose and treat multitude of medical issues, including respiratory disorders, seizures, diseases, infections and cases where surgery is required. They’re skilled at using tools and equipment designed especially for the tiniest humans, handling procedures from IVs to spinal taps.
In short, a neonatologist is the top-of-the-line medical professional trained to respond to your baby’s special needs and provide the most effective care.
Neonatologists typically work in children’s hospitals, medical research centers or in the NICU–neonatal intensive care unit–of any hospital. In most cases, you won’t seek out a neonatologist on your own. You will likely be referred to one by your pediatrician or obstetrician. If you’d like to find a referral for an AAP neonatologist, you can search for one using the agency’s online tool.
Families typically won’t see a neonatologist outside of a hospital setting, though some private practice doctors are also neonatologists. After your baby is discharged from the hospital, the neonatologist will work in tandem with your regular pediatrician to determine the best course of treatment moving forward.
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Source: American Academy of Pediatrics