Find out about neonatology and perinatology

When babies are born early or with health problems, it can be particularly challenging to treat them. A medical problem can be especially severe for a fragile infant, as they certainly cannot tell you what's wrong or support themselves in any way. Add to this the alarmingly small amount of time you have to treat an ailing newborn, and you have a situation for a very skilled and specialized doctor.

Neonatology has come a long way, and it continues to make great strides in newborn medical treatment and infant survival rates. Learn about the distinction between a neonatologist and a pediatrician, as well as when they are needed and how to find one.


What is a Neonatologist?

A neonatologist is a doctor that specializes in newborn care, especially for infants who are born prematurely or with an illness. An obstetrician or pediatrician would be able to take care of many minor health problems in newborn babies, but a neonatologist fills an important niche between the two specialties: her highly specialized training allows her to handle birth defects, serious illness or injury and other high-risk situations swiftly and in the best way possible to preserve the baby's health.

From diagnosis to treatment, neonatologists are intimately involved in the care of the newborn. They will coordinate the care and treatment, ensuring they receive the proper nutrition for healing, and consult with obstetricians and pediatricians about conditions affecting newborn infants. Since their specialty is dealing with emergency situations, neonatologists typically work in special care nurseries or the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital.

When Neonatal Care is Needed

With more couples going through in vitro fertilization, the incidence of multiple births has skyrocketed in recent years. Since you have a 50% chance of delivering prematurely if you're carrying twins (and your chances climb with each extra fetus), this means that more women than ever are giving birth to preterm babies who will need the attention of a neonatologist.

If you discover during or after delivery that your baby will need special attention, your obstetrician or pediatrician will be able to refer you to a neonatologist who can help. In cases where you discover a problem with your baby while you're still carrying her, both neonatology and perinatology, also known as maternal-fetal medicine, applies. In either case, your primary physician will be able to connect you with competent specialists that can improve the outlook for your baby.