When a woman is expecting, her obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) will care for her and her baby from conception through delivery. Neonatologists provide care for certain babies as soon as they are born.
“We are trained in both pediatrics and neonatology, a specialty that cares for infants born prematurely and those born with critical illness,” said board-certified neonatologist Thomas Murphy, M.D. who is with Atlantic Health System
Some preemies have difficulty breathing at birth. Neonatologists will care for them until they’re breathing well on their own. They also help preemies who face issues with low blood, sugar, temperature instability, and feeding difficulty.
While any baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered premature, not all preemies need neonatology care.
“We base the need for a neonatologist on each baby’s unique health condition and we have important conversations with families about why specialized neonatology care is necessary,” Dr. Murphy said.
If a woman knows she will deliver her baby early, a neonatologist will meet with her in the hospital before you give birth. “These conversations help reassure families that we will do everything we can to help their baby thrive,” Dr. Murphy said.
During pregnancy, specialists use tests like ultrasounds and echocardiograms to diagnose potential infant health problems while babies are still in the womb. Then, neonatologists and other pediatric specialists manage those conditions after delivery.
Sometimes, issues are not detected before delivery and only become apparent after birth. Neonatologists are there to help address those issues as well.
While neonatologists perform procedures like central line, breathing tube and chest tube placement, they do not perform surgery.
“Instead, we work with pediatric surgeons at Atlantic Health System who are skilled in the most advanced procedures,” Dr. Murphy said.
Whether your infant needs care at the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) at Goryeb Children’s Hospital or Overlook Medical Center; the Special Care Nursery at Chilton Medical Center; or the Intermediate Care Nursery at Newton Medical Center, the patient will have access to the same neonatology team. That team includes neonatologists, advanced neonatal nurse practitioners, physician assistants, highly experienced neonatal nurses, respiratory and physical therapists, feeding specialists/speech-language pathologists, social workers, case managers and lactation consultants.
“If your baby needs neonatology care, expect to have regular conversations with us,” Dr. Murphy said. “We’ll explain what is happening and why. We’ll contact you immediately if your baby has any sudden changes in his or her health condition.”
The most common question neonatologists get asked: “When will my baby go home?” The answer: “That’s really up to each individual baby. We’ll work with you at each step of your journey to ensure your baby has a safe and smooth transition from hospital to home,” Dr. Murphy said.