Once you've narrowed down your choices, plan to meet with a few physicians. Call the office to set up a prenatal consultation. (Some physicians charge for this, so be sure to ask.) The objective of this visit is to check out the facility and get a sense of the doctor's manner and philosophy. If you decide to go with a larger practice, you should try to meet all the physicians (or as many as you can), since you're not guaranteed to see the same one every time. If there's a physician in the practice that you don't like, you can always insist that you don't want to schedule visits with that doctor. Here are a few things you should get out of this meeting:
1. Take note of the facility. It should be clean, cheerful, and inviting, and ideally it should have toys and books to keep kids occupied. Also ask if there's a separate waiting room (or different hours) for well and sick children. Do people seem to be called for their appointments in a timely manner or do they have that glassy-eyed look, as though they've been there for days? Were the receptionist and other staff welcoming and kid-friendly?
2. Learn the doctor's preferences. Start asking questions such as, "Do you encourage breastfeeding? Supplementing? Are you supportive of moms who choose to bottlefeed? What is your approach regarding the use of antibiotics or when to start solids?" It may feel odd to ask these questions before your baby's birth, but by doing so, you'll learn the doctor's beliefs and style and make sure you're in sync.
3. Determine if the two of you interact well. Use this time as an opportunity to see whether she's an effective communicator and a good listener. Does she give written or verbal instructions? How will you communicate at other times? Does a nurse handle nonemergency medical questions? Can you contact the doctor via phone or e-mail? Ask if the physician has children of her own. What ages are they? While it's certainly not a prerequisite, having children of her own lends a kind of in-the-trenches experience, says Robert D. Walker, MD, a pediatrician and president of the Palmetto Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic in Columbia, South Carolina.
The rapport you establish is key, says Warren A. Jones, MD, past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. The physician must be sensitive to what's going on in your life and understand your values and culture as well. Your decision will likely come down to whom you like best. Remember that you're looking for more than a source of clinical information, says Dr. Walker. You want to build a relationship with the pediatrician, one where he's a partner in your child's development and growth. Look for somebody who communicates well but is a good listener too -- a person who will guide you through the good times and the bad, he recommends.
Ultimately, no matter whom you select as your baby's doctor, you won't really appreciate your choice until you've seen him in action. If you come to realize you're not satisfied, begin meeting with other physicians to see if you want to switch. But for the time being, trust your instincts and choose the doctor who best suits your needs.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.