SILVER SPRING, MD, July 28, 2011 - Once your baby arrives, it’s not the end of frequent trips to the doctor, it’s the beginning. While you no longer have to check on the health of your unborn child, you will be picking up the phone to call the doctor’s office every time your baby has a sniffle, takes a fall, or cries more than usual. As a result, it is important to have chosen a pediatrician before your little one arrives.
Aside from looking for reassurance for all your health concerns, there are also the well-baby exams and the vaccination schedule that will have you seeing your baby’s doctor more than you thought you’d see any doctor in a single year. The Baby Center provides a list of exam checklists that you can print off to either prepare yourself for each visit.
After you have received the initial exam following birth, which usually occurs 2 to 3 days after birth, the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health recommend visits for preventative care at 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6, months, 9 months and 12 months for the first year.
For all of these reasons, you want to make sure your pediatrician is someone that makes you feel comfortable. Here are some tips for finding the right doctor for your child
Choose in Advance
Don’t wait until your baby arrives before you try to choose your pediatrician. The hospital where you deliver will ask for your child’s doctor name, and if that doctor has privileges at that hospital, he or she will do the first evaluation of your child. Otherwise, one of the hospital pediatricians will do the first evaluation of your newborn.
Regardless of who does your hospital evaluation, your baby’s first follow-up visit is usually within the first few days of being released from the hospital. As a result, the start of the third trimester is a good time to start researching who you should choose to care for the health of your new addition
Check with your friends and family members with young children. Ask them what they think of their pediatrician. You can also ask your obstetrician for recommendations. Usually, they have a list of pediatricians that their patients use and have recommended.
You can also check the doctors credentials and patient reviews online. Web services like HealthGrades and Vitals provide information about medical professionals, including where they went to medical school and where they did their residency, how long they’ve been practicing, and any negative actions taken through the medical board or malpractice issues. These types of sites also list recommendations for other doctors in the area with the same specialy.
Meet with doctor
Most pediatricians will schedule meetings with potential new parents so they can answer questions and give the parents a feel for their practice. One thing to remember, many practices have multiple doctors on staff and you may not always see “your” pediatrician when your child falls ill.
Make sure you try to meet other doctors in the practice to make sure you are happy with them as well. There are plenty of stories out there from parents that love their pediatrician, but can’t stand the rest of the doctors in the practice.
Access the office
Pediatricians are doctors for children, therefore their offices tend to be geared towards younger patients. When you meet your doctor, try to evaluate how child friendly the waiting room is. An office that offers children’s magazines mixed in with the magazines for parents or a shelf of toys to keep children occupied while waiting for your appointment are assets you will be grateful for when your child is being fussy or impatient.
Check with Your Insurance
Finally, make sure that the doctor you choose is covered by your insurance company. You can either ask the office itself or contact your insurance company.
Another consideration is that many people experience changes in their coverage over time. Either the company they work for changes carriers, they change jobs, or there are changes within the plan itself. To help protect yourself against having to change your child’s doctor, ask which plans the office accepts. The broader the list, the less likely it is that you will have to change doctors in the future.
Your child’s health is going to be one of your foremost concerns for years to come. Following these tips will help ensure that you find the appropriate health professional as your partner in maintaining that well-being.
Follow Brighid on Twitter at @BrighidMoret and receive updates on when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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