Pregnant? Prenatals promote pediatricians, parents pick

The Pediatric Insider

© 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?

Author and youngest child

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?

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10 Comments on “Pregnant? Prenatals promote pediatricians, parents pick”

  1. Gem Says:

    We interviewed two pediatricians when my first son was born. I think either would have been fine. Personally, I needed someone who was willing to take the time to give me very detailed answers, cite current research, and talk me off a ledge when I got too obsessive. I’ve been extremely happy with our pediatrcian.

    I think interviewing may be most helpful when you’re in an area where the culture doesn’t match your lifestyle. For instance, my friend just told me about an experience she had where her baby had a bit of blood in his diaper and her pediatrician told her the baby was allergic to her breast milk and she needed to switch to formula immediately. She did get a second opinion but sometimes with infants it’s hard to get organized enough to find another pediatrician (particularly in an underserved area).

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  2. Helena Says:

    I wish I had picked a pediatrician who kept electronic records and had a faster turnaround time for filling out school paperwork. Instead, I just picked a group practice that was conveniently close to my house that had free parking. My husband insisted on a group practice instead of a solo doctor, so that’s what we got. I interviewed 3 practices, which was more time than I spent on selecting an OB. But any interview goes both ways, and they also had the chance to choose whether or not to accept my fetus as a patient.

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  3. Tara Haelle Says:

    I wrote about this a while back, offering a little research on surveys with pediatrician and some other sample questions in addition to the excellent ones here. The link is below.

    I met with/”interviewed” both our pediatricians before beginning to see them (we moved across the state when my oldest was 2). I was able to ensure I had a pediatrician whose style and sense of humor “matched” mine in a sense and felt comfortable knowing some of their policies with regards to specific questions I had (vaccine policy, common practices with antibiotics, etc.) If you’re not interested in meeting a pediatrician ahead of time, it’s certainly not required, but it can add a level of comfort. No other speciality gives you the opportunity to “shop around” before making an actual doctor appointment.

    Here’s my previous piece: http://www.doublexscience.org/picking-pediatrician/

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  4. Dr. Roy Says:

    Thanks! Tara’s piece has many more-specific questions that I think are great ideas to ask in advance.

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  5. janielyoung Says:

    I loved our pediatrician in the inital meeting but it turned out to be a bad match. She came highly recommended by a coworker, her philiosophies were all in line with ours, and my husband and both liked her “vibe.” But it turned out she was a bit of a fear mongerer. When my baby was slow to gain weight, she immediately had us test for cystic fibrosis. After a month of tests, specialists, and the most excruciating, gut clenching terror I’ve ever experienced, it turned out to be nothing at all. My kid was just in a low percentile (and following the same growth pattern I did as a baby, as a matter of fact).

    Many people might like that rule-everything-out approach. But me? It turns out I really need the “oh, I wouldn’t worry about that too much” kind of doctor. That’s what my dearly loved OB was like, so I asked him for a recommendation for someone similar, which is how we found our new (much more relaxed and relaxing) pediatrician. That’s what I should have done in the first place.

    I’m actually a more fearful person in general now, because of that CF scare. So make sure you think about where you’d like your pediatrician to fall on the worry scale. In her defence, I had no idea what my attitude would be like regarding this until after the baby was born. Which almost leads me to conclude that prenatal visits are only useful insofar as you get to check out the location and parking.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. akw62307 Says:

    I stumbled upon my pediatrician because the one that was recommended to me in the same practice wasn’t in the day I had to take my newborn daughter in for her first post-hospital checkup. I ended up liking him a lot and as we’ve had more visits with him I’m glad it worked out that we ended up with him.

    This probably seems silly but for the longest time I had a male doctor phobia and would freak out if there wasn’t a female available to see me. I’ve since gotten over that as I had no choice going through IVF last year as both doctors at the fertility clinic were males. I want my daughter to know that there’s no reason to feel the way I did around any male doctor.

    I’ve since seen a couple other pediatricians in the office and I like our regular one the best. I tend to worry about everything (including my daughter’s slow weight gain) and he reassures me along with being patient and not instantly doing other tests, etc.

    Sometimes things just work out!

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  7. Tish Says:

    My PCP and OB/gyn work out of a small clinic, so when I was pregnant I asked if they had any pediatricians, and then picked one because I liked her name. Of course, I already knew I liked the place and that the doctors all shared the same basic approach to medicine and were highly qualified, but I figured it would take time to decide if she was the right fit for us. Turns out she’s awesome. She’s laid back, matter of fact, blunt when need be, but also reassuring.

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  8. emmbee Says:

    We found our pediatrician on the recommendation of friends who all used the same practice. I met with him before my son was born, but to be honest, I didn’t really have a good sense of the doctor, or of what I needed, until I had the baby. As it turns out, the doctor is a good fit: very much a watchful-waiting type, very just-the-facts, which fits my personality, but also very warm with the kiddo. Not sure the initial meeting screened in any way for that; the most helpful part was having the recommendation of friends and colleagues that I trust.

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  9. Carlie Says:

    Thank you Dr. Roy, and thanks everyone else for your helpful comments! There are definitely some things here I hadn’t thought about before. Your list of things to look for makes much more sense to me than the lists I found on all the mommy forums and I think a prenatal interview with the doctor would actually be pretty helpful after all. I think I’ll narrow down our list of potential doctors by talking a bit more with the friends who recommended all of them and then meet with our first choice in person so I can get a feel for them and look for the things you mentioned around the office. I like the idea of group prenatal visits as well – I’ll have to see if any of my top picks offer anything like that.

    Thank you again everyone!

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  10. Elysiarenee Says:

    Not really on topic but I don’t need to lug almost anything around with me to take my babies out. My baby herself a nappy or 2 and a small pack of wipes fit easily in her carrier or my pockets. I find nappy bags completely mystifying!

    Like


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