Finding a pediatrician may not be your first thought in beginning stages of pregnancy, but selecting a doctor early on is very important! These days, women are beginning to search for a pediatrician as early as the second trimester of pregnancy, says the American Pregnancy Association.

A pediatrician is not the only choice for your child’s doctor – general practitioners or family doctors can also be a primary health care provider for any age. However, the American Board of Pediatrics states that pediatricians are the best choice because they know about the diseases, symptoms and developmental standards that are specific to children, from birth through adolescence.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines what you can expect from pediatrician visits:

• Help in determining healthy lifestyles for your child and useful ways to role model your choices
• Advice to prevent illness and/or injuries
• Early and appropriate care of acute illness to prevent its progression
• Treatment for life-threatening childhood conditions requiring intensive care
• Guidance in anticipating child’s needs from newborn to 21 years old

choose pediatrician 2When beginning to search for a pediatrician, here are three tips to narrow your many options:

Ask for referrals. Friends and family who share your parenting philosophies are great sources for finding a doctor that fits your needs. Obstetricians or midwives are familiar with the health care provider community and can steer you in the right direction based on your needs, along with hospitals, insurance companies or medical schools.

Choose one close to home. While there may be a doctor that you like an hour away from you, if you have a sick child, you aren’t going to want to travel far to see a professional.

Interviewing is okay. It is perfectly acceptable to narrow your choices to a few doctors in your area and visit each to conduct a short interview. Think of questions and preferences beforehand; for example, do you prefer a male or female doctor? Would you prefer to have a doctor of a certain age?

According to the Baby Center Expert Advice, there are several questions to keep in mind while pediatrician hunting:

• Does the doctor seem to enjoy working with children?
• Does he/she keep up to date on the latest medical advances?
• Does the doctor welcome questions?
• How long do you usually have to wait?
• Is the waiting room pleasant and kid-friendly?
• Is there anything that you don’t like or wish was different about your child’s doctor or his/her practice?

The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that once you have selected your pediatrician, visit with your doctor before the baby is born, especially if you are first time parents, parents with high-risk pregnancy or if you have questions about general child health issues. Following the birth, your next visit to the pediatrician should be two to three days later. If it is not your first child, some pediatricians push back the visit to one week after birth.

The Baby Center states that following the initial visit, you should expect to bring your baby to the pediatrician approximately six times in the first year, much more convenient if you’ve selected a pediatrician locally.

Finally, an important question to ask yourself is: how does your child respond to the doctor? You and your child will visit your doctor frequently, in times of sickness and health, for approximately 21 years!

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