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Health Matters — Having a prenatal visit with your pediatrician

JERMELIAH MARTIN, M.D.
Guest Columnist

The prenatal visit with your prospective pediatrician is an excellent way to establish your new baby’s medical home. The medical home is a health care model where the pediatrician provides reliable, comprehensive medical care with goal of improving your baby’s health and your family’s overall satisfaction.
Through the prenatal visit, parents have an opportunity to become more comfortable with their child’s doctor before the birth of their child. This comfort level is especially important if a referral or transfer of care is necessary because of unusual medical needs of the baby.
Although not a requirement, many families take advantage of this service offered by some pediatric offices.
The prenatal visit allows the pediatrician to gather basic information from the parents, provide information and advice to them, and identify high risk situations which may need early intervention.
The format of the prenatal visits may vary depending on the preference of the parents, the baby’s special health needs and the availability of the pediatrician.
Regardless of the format, the family should hopefully leave the visit with their questions answered, a better understanding about what to expect after delivery, and a foundation for a relationship with their doctor.

What to Expect
A brief visit is usually appropriate for parents who are still in the process of selecting a pediatrician and are not yet ready for an extensive visit.  The prenatal visit may be more of an interview of the practice, where you figure out if that practice fits the needs of you and your family.
The visit may include a tour of the facility and introduction to the staff. Once you have selected a pediatrician, a more extended visit can be scheduled. This visit may include everything in the brief visit plus more personal interaction, including discussion about the pregnancy, birth plan, feeding choice for the infant, child care, and vaccination.
Though all parents are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity, this type of visit is most important for a first pregnancy, young parents, when there are pregnancy complications or other anticipated problems that may affect the newborn, or when the parents are anxious for any reason.

Preparing for your visit
It is recommended that you schedule your prenatal visit early in your third trimester of pregnancy. This timing allows parents to have an opportunity to select a pediatrician prior to delivery, have questions answered and have the answers fresh in their minds before the baby comes.
Before your visit, sit down with your significant other or family and write down a list of questions or concerns that you have about the delivery and care of the baby after delivery. You may want to ask questions about the practice, including office hours, after-hours availability, hospital affiliations, and insurance acceptance.
Other important questions you may want to ask include: Will the pediatrician see your baby in the hospital? If not, how is information about the hospital stay communicated?
If a circumcision for a male infant is desired, is that done in the hospital or in the office? How soon will be the baby need to be seen in the office after discharge?
It is also important to gather information from close family members about health problems that may run in your family so that you can inform the pediatrician.
Prenatal visits are an important first step in establishing a medical home and healthy start for your baby. Ask your OBGYN or your pediatrician for more information about scheduling your prenatal visit.
Jermeliah Martin, M.D., works with Carolinas Medical Center-Lincolnton.

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