Getting to Know the Role of Pediatric Neonatologists

A pediatric neonatologist is a pediatrician who specializes in treating neonates, i.e. babies aged 0–28 days with critical health conditions, such as being born prematurely or having birth defects.

Prior to obtaining his degree, a pediatric neonatologist must first complete general medical and pediatric education, followed by special training in intensive care for newborns (neonates).

A List of Problems a Neonatologist Pediatrician Can Handle

Pediatric neonatologists usually treat neonates in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). The goal is for babies to get intensive and periodic supervision and care.

The length of treatment in the NICU room varies, depending on the health condition of the baby. Most of the babies treated were babies born before 37 weeks of gestation (premature), born with low birth weight, or had health conditions that required special care.

The following are some conditions in premature babies that are generally treated by pediatricians and neonatologists:

  • Respiratory problems due to incompletely formed lungs
  • Digestive system disorders that cause premature babies can not receive breast milk or formula milk
  • Hypothermia or drastic drop in body temperature
  • Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
  • Jaundice is caused by an underdeveloped liver
  • Bacterial or viral infections because the immune system has not been able to fight back

Meanwhile, health problems in term infants treated by pediatricians by neonatologists include:

  • Perinatal asphyxia that makes the baby susceptible to brain hypoxia, seizures, kidney failure, or heart failure
  • Congenital defects, such as heart defects, anencephaly, and disorders of the digestive system
  • Infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis, or sepsis, acquired before birth or shortly after birth
  • Diseases caused by inherited genetic disorders
  • Hyperbilirubinemia or jaundice
  • Injuries that occur at birth or after birth

If these problems have been detected before the baby is born, a neonatologist can also be involved during pregnancy care, delivery, and postnatal care.

Actions Performed by Pediatric Neonatologists

The following is a list of some of the responsibilities of a pediatric neonatologist:

  • Diagnosing problems and causes of problems that occur in newborns
  • Performing treatment, care, and monitoring for newborns who have critical conditions
  • Ensuring critically ill newborns receive proper nutrition to aid healing and support growth
  • Coordinate the medical care of premature infants and infants who are critically ill, have birth defects, or require surgery
  • Accompanying the birth of a baby who is at high risk of experiencing a critical condition

When to See a Neonatologist Pediatrician?

You may be referred to a pediatric neonatologist if the obstetrician detects that your baby has a condition that will require intensive care at birth.

You may also be referred to a pediatric neonatal specialist if your pregnancy is at high risk, for example because you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of drug use.

In addition, your obstetrician or pediatrician may also refer you to a pediatric neonatologist if your newborn has any of the following conditions:

  • Shortness of breath or seems to have difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Weight does not increase or decrease
  • Heart beats abnormally
  • Looks not strong enough to breastfeed or drink formula

Before taking your baby to the pediatrician, a neonatologist, you should record all the symptoms and complaints your baby is experiencing. Tell also about your medical history during pregnancy and childbirth.

It's also important to tell your pediatrician, a neonatologist, about your nutritional intake and what treatments you're taking after you get home from the hospital. This will make it easier for a pediatrician, a neonatologist, to diagnose your baby's illness.