Finding a Pediatrician

An understanding pediatrician or general practitioner is a vital ingredient for a good postpartum adjustment period. Search out the services of such a physician who, in addition to being medically competent and concerned with the new baby, is understanding, helpful, and concerned with the new parents as well. Today it is not uncommon for expectant parents to shop for such a doctor. Why wait until after the baby is born to discover that you and the baby's doctor cannot have a good relationship because of basic differences about childcare theories or because of personalities that are totally incompatible?

Obtain the names of several doctors from friends and relatives and ask why they are being recommended. If possible, accompany a friend on a visit to her pediatrician with her baby to get first-hand knowledge of the doctor's personality and attitudes. Obtain names from your obstetrician, childbirth educator, or any other individual in a medically related field and ask them their opinion of the other doctors already referred to you.

Once you have narrowed the field down to about three possibilities, call each pediatrician and ask if he or she can spend a few minutes on the phone with you or if you can call back at a more convenient time, or even better, if you can come in for an appointment to meet the doctor. No doctor should charge for such a telephone conversation, but you can expect to pay for a prenatal consultation visit (some do not charge for this service).

If you are put off by a cold or nasty nurse who doesn't care to understand your concern and refuse to let you speak with the doctor at any time, strike that doctor from your list. (You might let the doctor know in writing that you were put off by the nurse's attitude.) In most instances, it is probably true that whatever attitude the doctor's nurse or receptionist shows to patients is a reflection of the doctor's feelings.

Before speaking with the doctor, you should read all you can about infant care and nutrition and speak with other new mothers about issues they consider important. This will help you to develop a basis for your own preferences. By the time you speak with the doctor you should have some idea of how you feel about breastfeeding, vitamins, when to start solids, weaning from breast or bottle, prepared baby foods, etc. Your opinions on most infant care issues are just as valid as the doctor's since many issues in the field of pediatrics are being disputed even within medical circles. Remember to ask about the doctor's hospital affiliation. If the pediatrician is not affiliated with the hospital at which you will give birth, he or she may be able to examine your baby but cannot treat your child there. Can he or she practice at the hospital you would most likely take your child to in an emergency? Another thing to check is whether or not the doctor has a telephone hour - a time of day especially set aside for answering questions, or can you feel free to call with a question at any time? Who covers when the doctor is on vacation? Does he or she make house calls? (This may or may not be important to you because facilities in the doctor's office or hospital are more complete than in your home.) Can the doctor be reached twenty-four hours a day man emergency? (Anything you feel is an emergency should qualify.) What is the waiting room like? Is it filled with toys and books for children to use while waiting? Is it bright and cheerfully decorated? Are there laboratory facilities available in the office, or will you have to go elsewhere for blood tests, throat cultures, etc., if they are required? If you plan to breastfeed - ask not only if the doctor is in favor of breastfeeding, but what percentage of his or her patients is being breastfed. What are the fees for office visits house calls, immunizations? How many times will the doctor visit the baby while you're in the hospital, and what is the fee for each of these visits?

If you detect annoyance, disrespect, or indifference when you discuss these points, find another doctor. If the answers to your questions are curt, without adequate explanation, in language you cannot understand, forget about him or her. On the other hand, if the doctor expresses, by word or inference, understanding of your fears and feelings as an expectant parent and recognition of the special needs of new parents - fathers as well as mothers - during the postpartum period, you have found a special physician.

Health | Reproduction | Pregnancy

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