Pediatricians are about the last thing on a new mama’s mind while she is busy growing a person. First comes a test, then comes being oppressively tired. We get to follow this up with morning to all-day sickness, super nesting mode, heartburn, baby showers, and then back to oppressive tiredness and where did my ankles go?! But, at the end of it all, you get a baby! A sweet, soft squidge of human that you will be happy to sit and smell for a lot longer than you would deem normal in another person.
So, when do they need a doctor?
You need a pediatrician before you have your baby. Because they will be coming to visit you in the hospital after you deliver. And, you do not want to have a newborn in one arm trying to figure out the perfect latch and a nurse handing you a list of random names and saying, “Pick a pediatrician!”
Why Do You Need a Pediatrician Before Birth
So, when to begin? Really anytime is fine, but some pediatricians get “hot” – meaning their names get thrown around Facebook groups and their new patient lists fill up fast.
Another reason to go earlier than later is you may deliver earlier than later! Birth plans are great but they are not written on a baby’s timetable. Ideally, find that pediatrician by the time you have a baby shower. When you are around seven months along. And, definitely, have a doctor chosen by the time you are no longer allowed to board a plane. Generally, your last date of departure will be 36 weeks.
Also, you can expect a visit in the hospital from your pediatrician and it is the policy of many hospitals that you have your baby’s first appointment scheduled prior to discharge.
Consequently, if you do not have a chosen pediatrician and the hospital sends in the on-call doctor they may not be in your insurance network and you may receive an unexpected bill. Unfortunately, the random pediatrician who will show up will have no idea of their billing practices. It is a really good idea to make sure the doctor visiting is not going to cause you more stress with unexpected billing.
How to Choose a Pediatrician
The best way to choose your baby’s doctor is to meet them. They are happy to schedule a prenatal appointment and make sure you are on the same page. If they are not that should be a red flag and you may want to keep looking.
If you are unsure of where to find one ask your hospital or OB/Gyn and they can probably provide you with a list.
- Personality – While becoming best friends with your pediatrician is not required being comfortable to speak openly is. If that is not the vibe you get then keep looking.
- Policy – If you have a particular stance on various treatment issues, such as vaccines, you need to make sure you are in line with your doctor before the baby is born. If you have an alternative stance to typical procedures you may need extra time to find the right fit for your family. So start looking for a pediatrician earlier than later. Likewise, you need to be aware and amenable to their other policies like no-shows, late arrival, missed appointment fees, etc.
- Availability – The best doctor in the world will do you no good if you can not get in to see him or her. Most doctors can get your sick kid in, but for an average wellness visit or less urgent matter you can expect very popular doctors to book out three months to a year. Som other things to consider:
- How convenient are they to you?
- Is a 30-minute drive with a new baby reasonable for you? Do you want someone down the street?
- Do you want a doctor that is part of a larger group that can share your records electronically across the system?
- What hospitals are they affiliated with?
- In an emergency can they see your child if you go to the hospital closest to your house? (This goes for your birth as well, can they visit your baby at the hospital where you are delivering?)
Oops, I forgot to Find Someone!
It’s okay! You have a lot going on and pregnancy brain is real! If this is just one of those things that slips through the cracks there will be a pediatrician on call at the hospital when you deliver. They will be happy to see your baby (in fact, the hospital will insist on it!). Then you can take a little time to find someone. Or you can just pick someone on the list and change later.
The goal is a happy healthy baby and mom! Definitely, do not stress. In fact, you could even hand that list over to whoever is hanging out on the couch in your room not icing their vagina and ask them to research a few for you.
And, as always, it is your baby. What you say goes! So, if you are not seeing eye to eye. Respectfully, decline and move down the list. You got this, mama!