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Expecting your first child is an exciting but stressful life event for new parents. The preparation for a new family member can often be extensive and time-consuming. Finding your expected baby's doctor is one important preparatory task you cannot overlook.
Most healthcare providers recommend beginning the search for the expected baby's doctor around the beginning of the mother's first trimester. Expect this search to take some time because you will want to find a doctor close to home with the correct credentials and similar health values.
Before searching for your new doctor, you will want to know that you can afford the doctor visits. If you have health insurance, this will make your process of finding the right doctor easier. Health insurance companies make deals with healthcare providers to offer discounted rates. These healthcare providers that agree to provide you and your health insurance company discounts are within your insurance network. You can learn what healthcare providers are within your health insurance network by searching the health insurance company's website or calling one of their customer service representatives. After learning what healthcare providers are in-network, you can narrow down what doctors will be the right fit for you and your expected baby.
If you do not have access to health insurance, you could consider applying for health insurance at this time. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prevents health insurance companies from denying you coverage on the grounds of pregnancy or the expected child. If health insurance is not in your future or the future of the expected baby, consider seeing if your potential healthcare provider offers payment plans or discounted rates when making considerations.
Choosing a Doctor with Amazing Care
Not all doctors will have the credentials to care for your expected baby. You will specifically want to look for a Pediatrician. Pediatricians are medical doctors trained to care for children from infancy to the age of 18. You will want to find a Board-Certified Pediatrician because they are doctors most verified to care for your expected child. A licensed Board-Certified Pediatrician has to graduate medical school, participate in a 3-year residency and pass a rigorous examination process. A licensed Board-Certified Pediatrician will have the letters "FAAP" after their name as an indicator for their proficiency as a Pediatrician. The Pediatrician's role in your expected child's health will be to:
Provide care for routine wellness visits.
Diagnose and treat health concerns and illness.
Recommend specific immunizations.
Observe childhood development.
Advise specific nutrition and exercise plans.
Refer you to other healthcare providers when your child needs specialized medical treatment.
Pediatrician vs. Family Doctor
Are Pediatricians the same as a Family Doctor? Not exactly. Both Pediatricians and Family Doctors graduate medical school, attend residency, and should be Board Certified. Pediatricians undergo training to treat specific needs of child patients 18 years of age and younger. Family Doctors undergo training to treat patients of varying ages including children, adults, and the elderly. A Family Doctor’s training is equally extensive but less specified for treating child patients. A Family Doctor could be a secondary option for tending to your family’s healthcare needs but you should find a Pediatrician as your first resource for treating your child.
Allopathic (MD) vs Osteopathic (DO)
Doctors can have an Allopathic (MD) or Osteopathic (DO) license. Allopathic medicine emphasizes diagnosing and treating medical conditions. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes caring for patients by preventing illness and promoting holistic approaches to healing before prescribing invasive and intensive treatments. Allopathic doctors have an “MD” to indicate their medical attention while Osteopathic doctors have a “DO” to indicate their attention.
It is time to find the Pediatrician that best aligns with your needs. Here are some tips for further narrowing your search:
As mentioned previously, checking your healthcare insurance company’s in-network Pediatricians will save you a lot of time. However, just because your insurance covers a certain Pediatrician does not mean they are the best fit for you and your expected baby. You will want to consider other methods for narrowing down your potential Pediatrician.
Use a web browser
Use your favorite web browser such as Google, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo to further your search about information about local Pediatricians. This will be the opportune time to determine how far you are willing to travel for routine doctor visits. Keep in mind that children between infancy and 2 years of age require several routine visits per year. Ask yourself how far you are comfortable traveling if your expected child were to have a health emergency*.
*Emergency situations should be treated as such. Call 911 if you or someone under your care is having an emergency situation.
Ask your OBGYN or Family Doctor
If you know and trust your OBGYN, ask them for their recommendation. Doctors recommend other doctors that have a similar perspective similar to their own. Many OBGYN offices will have contact information for other doctors on file at their practice.
Ask those close to you
You have likely met and know people who have either birthed a baby or know someone who has. Friends, family, and colleagues could recommend their Pediatricians based on their first-hand experience.
Considerations and Questions for your future Pediatrician
You will have several questions to ask prospective Pediatricians. However, you should ensure asking these questions below before committing to a medical facility and Pediatrician.
Immunizations are a controversial topic within medical practices. Inform yourself about immunizations, ask your prospective Pediatrician their stance about the subject and determine if their perspective aligns with your values.
Hours of Operation & On-Call Procedures
Consider your future availability for yourself, other caretakers, and your expected baby. Do the hours of operation fit within the times you can attend appointments? Are you okay postponing work or school engagements to attend future doctor's appointments? Keep in mind that not all medical offices have consistent evening or weekend hours.
Post Birth Hospital Visit
After birth, the hospital will have an onsite Pediatrician examine your infant. However, sometimes your selected Pediatrician will have the capability to visit your baby at the hospital immediately following the birth and examine the health of your infant. Ask your prospective Pediatrician if they have the permission and capability to visit the hospital on site.
If you are expecting a male baby, you will want to investigate circumcision practices. Your expected baby boy can undergo circumcision while in the hospital after their birth or days later in the office of your future Pediatrician.
Lastly, many pediatrician offices offer events or interviews dedicated to helping new parents find the right doctor for their expected baby. While making your considerations you should take advantage of opportunities to visit a potential medical practice. This will give you a realistic perspective of how the practice functions as a whole. When visiting prospective medical offices, make observations such as staff friendliness and ability to meet the needs of their existing patients. Following these recommendations will help you have peace of mind during your last trimester.