Pregnant? Prenatals promote pediatricians, parents pick
© 2015 Roy Benaroch, MD
After an annoyingly alliterative title comes Carlie’s comment (OK, I’ll stop now):
Dr. Roy, do you ever do interviews with parents who are considering you to be their child’s doctor before the baby is born? I’m wondering what an actual pediatrician’s opinion on this is – if you do it, do you find it beneficial or bothersome? Does it seem to help your relationship with new families in your practice? I’d never heard of this until I got pregnant and started looking for a pediatrician, but now I’m seeing everywhere that I’m supposed to meet with doctors in person in my eighth month or so and bring a whole long list of questions to grill them with. Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but it seems odd to me because most of the questions that I’m apparently supposed to ask the doctors I can easily answer myself by looking at the practice’s website. I can understand how meeting someone in person and spending time in the office might help you decide if you want to go with that doctor or not, but I kind of feel like it would be wasting the doctor’s time and maybe taking it away from a patient who might need it more. It must be a common thing, though, because so many people are telling me I need to do it if I want to be sure I pick the right pediatrician. Is a sit-down meeting with the pediatrician pre-baby really important and beneficial, or is it not needed anymore now that so many doctors have websites answering questions about their practices?
Many pediatricians offer group “prenatal visits” as a meet-and-greet sort of thing. I do them once a month or so, and usually have a handful of pregnant moms show up, sometimes dads, sometimes families with somewhat older kids who just want to meet me. They’re certainly not required, but many families seem to like to meet the ped before Junior arrives, which I think is a good idea. They can help parents and pediatricians find a good “match” before the baby comes.
What I would look for, if I were you, are first some basic-but-important things about the practice. Is it easy to get to (consider traffic, too)? Is it easy to park and get a stroller and baby and carrier and mother-in-law through the door? (You’ll be surprised just how much junk you’ll have to lug around with a newborn. Of course I don’t mean the mother-in-law.) Is it easy to get someone to answer the phone, or is there a crazy-complicated phone tree? Do the employees seem happy and organized, or do they run out of the office at the end of the day like rats from a sinking ship? What about the parents you might see on their way out—do they look reasonably happy? Keep in mind, they’re probably worried about a sick kid, so don’t hold that against us. But, still, what’s your overall impression of the practice—is it welcoming and friendly?
You’ll meet a pediatrician, too, and you’ll want to think about whether that person is what you expect or what you’ll feel good about as your source for medical advice. Man, woman, young, old—if any of that matters to you, think about it and choose who you’d be most comfortable with. Some pediatricians are serious, some silly, most of us in-between. Will it annoy you if you’ve got a pediatrician who counts toes and looks for monkeys in ears? Are you looking for a more grandmotherly type, or a reassuring type, or someone who will just tell it like it is? A talker, a listener, a worrier, a reincarnation of Dr. Doug Ross? Pediatricians come in all kinds of styles, and you’ll get at least some kind of impression at a prenatal visit. Do you feel good about it afterwards, or did he or she just get on your nerves?
A prenatal visit can be a chance to find out about how a practice is run, too. More than just the hours—what’s the after-hours availability of a pediatrician for advice? How long does it take school or vaccine forms to be completed, and is there an extra charge for those? Can you call in to a nurse for advice (and is there a charge for phone calls?) How long does it take to get an appointment, both for a check-up and a sick visit?
Of course, a prenatal visit isn’t the only way to get info about a potential pediatric practice. You can visit their website and click around. You can read reviews on any of dozens of review sites—though keep in mind that many businesses get outlier negative reviews and positive reviews from both competitors and employees (in other words, the internet tells lies sometimes. But you knew that already.) I think the best source of information about a pediatrician and a pediatric practice is from your friends and neighbors, people who’ve brought their kids there. Websites and prenatal visits can be polished and buffed to look good. What you really want to know is what real families say about the doc.
In the end, though, keep in mind that there shouldn’t be a lot of pressure here. If you find afterwards that you’re just not happy with a doc or a practice, you can choose another one. What’s most important is to find a medical home where you and your child feel comfortable, and maybe even where your kiddo can look forward to visits. It never hurts to recheck for those monkeys!
Hey, here’s a thing—post in the comments if you’ve had a good or bad prenatal experience, or if your choice turned out to be the right one. What do you wish you knew about your ped or practice before you chose? What, really, should parents be looking for?