Momsense: Line up a doctor for your baby before she’s born

Quite a sizeable to-do list begins
to form shortly after you discover
you’re pregnant: Head to maternity
stores to fi nd clothes for your
rapidly-increasing size; furnish
and stock nursery with supplies;
find out about maternity benefits;
narrow down baby names.

There is one very important item
that expectant parents should add
to their checklist – finding a doctor
for your baby. If you have a family
doctor, is he or she accepting
new patients and experienced
with newborn care, or should
you fi nd a pediatrician – a doctor
who specializes in looking after
children?

Many parents leave this off
the list – intentionally or not –
assuming the details will fall into
place at or shortly after baby’s
birth. But that’s not the best
plan, says Dr. Mickey Lester, a
Toronto pediatrician who has been
practising for more than 40 years
and author of the book Say “AAAH”
– A Common Sense A to Z Guide to
those “Aaahsome” Years Newborn to 5
.

“You must have the doctor
before the baby is born, and you
have to make your own inquiries,”
says Dr. Lester. The Canadian
Paediatric Society estimates that
only about 30 to 40 percent of
children’s visits to a doctor for
primary health care in Canada
are to a pediatrician. The rest
see a family doctor. This is partly
because there are only about 2,300
practising pediatricians in Canada.

“In my view the general
pediatrician is the gold standard
for care,” says Dr. Lester. “That
is because the pediatrician will
recognize problems quicker, make
fewer referrals and there will be
less chance for misdiagnoses.”
A pediatrician is expert at
monitoring your baby’s neurodevelopment
and will spot any
issues like late speech as early as
possible.

A family doctor is expert at
keeping an eye on general growth
and developmental milestones,
and managing your baby’s vaccine
schedule.

The most important piece of
advice is to fi nd a permanent
doctor for your baby instead of
relying on a walk-in clinic where
you may not see the same doctor
every time.

A healthcare who’s who?

Family doctor/General practitioner
After medical school, the doctor goes through a Family Practice
program, which is usually two years; During that time, one to two
months is spent focusing on pediatrics.

Pediatrician
After medical school, the doctor opts for a four-year program in
Pediatrics. Many often choose a sub-specialty, such as pediatric
cardiology, gastroenterology or oncology Future
reading and conference attendance is focused
solely on pediatrics.

Nurse practitioner
Registered Nurses with advanced university
education provide personalized, quality
health care to patients; In rural areas, where
there is the greatest shortage of physicians,
Nurse Practitioners are increasingly taking a
front-line role in health care.

Stuck on where to look?

Dr. Lester suggests the following options:

  1. Call the hospital where you are scheduled to deliver and inquire if they
    have a list of family doctors or pediatricians accepting newborn patients. 
  2. Ask friends who already have babies for recommendations. 
  3. Contact your provincial college of physicians and ask if they have a
    list of physicians accepting newborn patients.


Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2013.

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