Specialty Care for Newborns

Washington University Physicians in Illinois, Inc. provides 24/7 care for newborns at Memorial's Family Care Birthing Center. Learn more from Dr. Shawn O'Connor.

What is a neonatologist?

A neonatologist is a specialty pediatrician who has done additional training to take care of newborns who are primarily born early or premature or full term infants who have complications or problems.

What are some common complications you deal with?

Two of the more common complications we see are congenital heart defects and abdominal wall or bowel defects. Sometimes we get thrown surprises where kids have problems with how their brain controls breathing or muscle movement. Sometimes we're not able to pick up on things ahead of time but only find out right when the infants are born.

At what point can a neonatologist be consulted?

As part of a multi-disciplinary team, there are neonatologists who are part of fetal care centers that work with OB/GYNs, surgery, or neurology. They are co-specialists in newborn medicine and walk families through the process of anticipating a baby who might be born with complications.

How do you help parents through this difficult time?

It's all kind of about expectation management. You have to recognize that these are moms and dads who were planning on having a baby nine months after they conceived. They are already planning colleges, marriages, and grandchildren before they're even born. I keep that in perspective when talking to families. You have to start to build a family with this family. Often times, especially if babies are born very, very early, the only family that these families know are their hospital family, and so we become part of the crew. We see the ups and downs, and we see the rollercoaster ride back and forth. We are a support person for these families.