Pregnancy is a magical time. You spend hours decorating the nursery, planning the baby shower, and selecting the perfect homecoming outfit for your newborn. But many parents don’t take advantage of this prenatal period to seek out one of the most important people in your baby’s life—their pediatrician. You’ll be seeing a lot of your baby’s doctor in those first couple of years, and it certainly helps to get to know him or her before your new bundle of joy arrives.
A pediatrician acts as your partner in ensuring your child is as healthy as possible not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. So, taking an afternoon before your baby is born to visit their office, meet them, and get an idea of how things are run at the practice will help tremendously when your baby runs that first, midnight fever.
The following tips will give you a leg up on finding a qualified pediatrician in your area, questions to ask, and things to look for at your pre-baby visit.
What Steps Can I Take To Find a Pediatrician?
Ask other Parents
You can certainly contact the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org), or even do a Find-a-Doc search on the Medical Association of your state’s website. The best way to find a top-notch pediatrician in your area is to ask other parents. Ask at your church, at your local school, or at the office. Talk to parents about their experiences with their pediatrician and about any frustrations they might have.
Set up an interview with any prospective doctors. “We do expectant parent visits,” says Dr. Mark Lytle, a pediatrician with Pediatrics East in Birmingham. “It gives [parents] a good opportunity to ask questions and get to know my temperament, and for me to get to know them.”
Talk to a few pediatricians to compare personalities and practices.
Have Your Questions Prepared
During your visit, be ready with a list of questions. “Ask them about their background,” advises Dr. Lytle. “Find out if they have a specialty or special area of interest in pediatrics. And one important question is if they are certified through the American Board of Pediatrics. I’ve even had people ask about my family and my beliefs. Whatever is important to you is certainly OK to ask.” Other good questions:
- What are your office hours?
- How do you handle appointments?
- What do you do if my child is sick after hours?
- How do you handle emergencies?
- What hospital do you admit to?
- How do you handle billing?
- How are insurance claims handled?
- If I call with a question, will the doctor return my call or a nurse?
- What’s your vaccination schedule?
- Do I have to wait long to see a doctor?
This is also a good time to bring up any special areas of concern you may have, like any hereditary problems that could be an issue with your new baby.
Loiter a bit. If you have time, take a few extra minutes to sit in the waiting room. Check out the decor and layout of the office. Is it kid-friendly? Does the office have separate sick and well-waiting rooms? Watch how long it takes patients to be seen. Observe how the office staff deals with parents. Strike up a conversation with a parent and get their take on the practice. Even if your child is healthy, you’ll still be spending a lot of time in the office, and you want to be sure it’s a space that is as welcoming and comfortable as possible.