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The Informed Parent

How to Choose a Pediatrician

by Louis P. Theriot, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jan. 01, 2000

Dear Dr. Theriot,

I am 4 months pregnant with our first child. My husband and I want to start looking for a doctor for our new baby. How should we go about doing this, and what questions should we ask? This is all so new to us.

A good referral source can be friends and neighbors who have children in your neighborhood. Often times the name of one or two doctors always keeps coming up, and this can be very informative...especially if the parents speak highly about that particular doctor. Another excellent referral source is your obstetrician.

It is wise to meet with the doctor before you deliver and get a feel for how the office operates. When you call for an appointment, see if the phone person is courteous and helpful. Are you put on hold for an inappropriate amount of time? When you do go to the office, see how easy it is to park. How accessible is the office in regards to stairs and elevators? Does the office have separate waiting areas for sick and well children?

Here are some questions that you might ask the prospective new doctor. Does he/she have staff privileges at the hospital where you plan to deliver? Will he/she be the doctor who examines your new baby in the nursery? What is the schedule for regular well-baby visits, and what shots are given and when? How likely is it that you can get an appointment and be seen the same day?

How does the office handle phone calls if you were to call with a particular question or problem? Does the doctor return calls personally, or is there a phone person who relays information? Is it difficult to speak directly with the doctor? What do you do if the baby gets sick after the office is closed, or on weekends? Does the doctor share calls with any other doctors or group?

The pre-delivery visit, or pregnancy consult, is a good time to ask the doctor questions you might have about things like circumcision, breast feeding, or what books he/she recommends you have to refer to. It is also a good time to meet the doctor and see if the office makes you comfortable. There's a lot to be said for "the chemistry" or "gut feeling" that only YOU can experience. Sometimes it feels just right, other times it doesn't. Regardless, you have to feel good about, and comfortable with the person who will be caring for probably the most important person in your life.

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