Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics. These baby docs specialize
in the care of premature babies -- born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy --
as well as babies with a low birth weight or other problems.
An exciting development in neonatology is the appearance of a related emerging
"There's a new field of medicine that's intersecting with neonatology,
which is fetal diagnosis and treatment," says neonatologist Dr. Alan Hodson.
He says neonatologists are working more closely with obstetricians, who sometimes
diagnose a problem with a baby before it's born. Ultrasound, amniocentesis
or other prenatal studies can help them find these problems.
"So the future challenge is going to be dealing with babies already diagnosed
and, in some cases already treated...before they're born. That's the emerging
field, and I think it will be very exciting for a career," says Hodson.
Once a baby is released from the hospital, the neonatologist's job is done.
A neonatologist's care is, for all intents and purposes, done in the hospital.
"The spectrum of age usually goes through the first month or two of life
-- babies who have a problem at birth or acquire a problem within the first
few weeks of life. Some of the patients are older than that, because they
haven't recovered or are extremely premature, so they may be up to six months
to a year of age before they're discharged," says Hodson.
Neonatologists work long, irregular hours.
"If you're a neonatologist in an academic teaching center, the bonus is
that you're not always on clinical service or aren't always doing patient
care. That means there'll be times when your activities are more focused on
your research, teaching, or administrative activities. So there's some downtime
and some relief," says Dr. Hilary Whyte.
Take care of at-risk babies