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The Role of Neonatologists in Neonatal Care

June 17, 2023

When the newborn baby is sick ,is born prematurely, is underweight or has a specific condition that needs treatment in the hospital, care is provided in a unit called Neonatal Care. The meaning of "neonate" is "newborn" in the first 28 days of the baby’s life. Those babies who are in neonatal care are looked after by neonatologists. Read below to learn more about what is a neonatologist’s job, the role of the neonatologist in neonatal care and how to get trained to become a neonatologist.

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Who is a Neonatologist?

Neonatology is a branch of science that focuses on newborn health and the factors that affect their growth and survival. Caring for newborn babies needs specialization, as they present many unique challenges. So those who care for them should have a high skill set and expertise to treat those conditions. This is for both premature babies and neonates with underdeveloped organs.

To answer the question of who is a neonatologist, they are specialists who care for newborns. They consult with patients who are in delivery or labour. They take part in routine care after childbirth and counselling before ,during and after childbirth. This helps the parents get prepared for the newborn's arrival and also take further care of the baby. Neonatologists are pediatricians too and they are responsible for the proper medical care of kids. When there are challenges during delivery or thereafter, they coordinate with other medical professionals to provide effective care.

Neonatal pediatricians are at the forefront when there is a birth with challenges. So some of the complications they address are:

When to see a Neonatologist?

Now that you know what is a neonatologist’s role, it is essential to know, as a parent or a caregiver what the reasons are to visit them. As neonatologists work through every birthing process, there are many reasons you might have to go for a visit. It includes:

High-risk Pregnancy

A visit to the neonatologist becomes a must if there is a high-risk pregnancy for the antenatal counselling. This gives you an overview of the risks involved in pregnancy , childbirth and to the baby after birth. They also help you understand the treatment options available, the requirements of NICU etc.

Complications at Childbirth

Some pregnancies can be challenging even if they are not classified as high-risk. Neonatal pediatricians ensure that difficult births like umbilical cord wrapping or pressing the baby do not cause any serious complications. They are also useful when the position of the baby poses a danger to itself or the mother. Neonatologists advise on the necessary steps to take that are good for the mother and the baby.

Congenital Problems

Babies can be born with weak immunity, underdeveloped organs or other issues that make it hard for them to survive without the help of a neonatologist. They provide proper care for babies with these problems.

Training, Education and How Long Does it Take to be a Neonatologist?

After knowing who is a neonatologist and the role they play, here is some information regarding their training, education and how long it takes to become a neonatologist.

Students who have physics, biology and chemistry as their main subjects in +2 have to take medical tests conducted by various states. Depending on the performance in these tests and exams, a medical seat is granted.

The MBBS degree course is four and a half years long, with another one-and-a-half years of training. To become a neonatologist, one has to choose a M.D. or equivalent degree in pediatrics. The completion of this course can take about 2 to 3 years. To get a specialization in neonatology, another 3-year course has to be undertaken. After completing this specialization course, it is necessary to register with the Medical Council of India to become a recognized neonatologist and practise as a neonatal pediatrician. So if you ask how long it takes to be a neonatologist after MBBS, it is close to 6 years.

What Should You Expect When You Visit a Neonatologist?

Neonatologists work in NICUs (neonatal intensive care units). These are special care units that are built to support fragile, premature and sick babies in their first few weeks. The common reasons for NICU admissions are:

  • Premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of gestation)
  • Low birth weight babies/ intrauterine growth restriction
  • Labored breathing
  • Neonatal seizures
  • Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia
  • Sepsis or life-threatening infection.
  • Any congenital anomalies requiring surgical interventions
  • Cardiac anomalies

Babies who are in the NICU get complete care from experts while being kept in an incubator. They may need tubes to enable breathing, a ventilator or an IV line to give medicine and fluids. If they are unable to feed themselves, a feeding tube is placed through the mouth or nose. The type of equipment depends on the support needed and the duration of the stay is dependent on the medical condition and how the babies respond to the line of treatment. The neonatologist is the person who decides the treatment and when the baby is ready to move out of the NICU.


What is the role of neonatal care?

Neonatal care is the care given to newborns who are sick or are born prematurely in a specialized unit of a hospital called the neonatal care unit. In this unit, newborn babies who are born before 37 weeks, have low birth weight or are diagnosed with a medical condition are taken care of.

What are the characteristics of a neonatologist?

The important characteristics to look for in neonatologists are that they should be experts in this area and have good decision-making and analytical skills. They should be dedicated and passionate about caring for high-risk babies and have good interpersonal and communication skills to show empathy and compassion to the parents.

Is a neonatologist a physician who specializes in the care of newborns?

No. A neonatologist is a pediatrician and a specialist who is trained and experienced in caring for newborns.

What is a neonatal pediatrician?

A neonatal pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in neonatal care, meaning caring for the newborn. Usually, a neonatal pediatrician also does routine treatment and care to help with the proper growth and development of the baby.

Want to consult the Best Pediatricians in India? Please find the links below.

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