During pregnancy, life can seem like a never-ending stream of medical appointments. This is all for good reason, of course—but the last thing many parents want to do is add another visit to a doctor's office to the schedule. Yet, in newly updated recommendations, the American Academy of Pediatrics stresses the importance of meeting with your baby's future pediatrician before baby makes an appearance.
"We encourage a pediatric prenatal visit in order to initiate a trusted pediatric relationship and the concept of the medical home during pregnancy," Michael W. Yogman, MD, chair of the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, told Infectious Diseases in Children. "We encourage obstetricians to refer all patients for these visits, especially those at high psychosocial risk and/or with perinatal depression."
According to a report published in the journal Pediatrics by the AAP, fewer than 39% of first-time parents meet with their child's future pediatrician during the prenatal period—despite the majority of pediatricians' offices offering this service. The rates of prenatal pediatric visits were lowest (5%) among low-income, urban parents.
Beyond having a meet-and-greet, these prenatal appointments allow parents and the pediatrician to discuss family medical histories, the mother's prenatal health and suggestions for early infant care and safety. The authors of the report explain "as the medical specialty that is entirely focused on the health and well-being of the child, embedded in the family, pediatric care ideally begins before pregnancy, with reproductive life planning of adolescents and young adults, and continues during the pregnancy."
It makes sense for parents to make time for it if they can.
The authors say other valuable topics of discussion during prenatal pediatric appointments include: positive parenting, community resources, delivery and nursery routines, infant-feeding plans, circumcision, safety, emotions in newborns and emotions in the parents.
Pediatricians can arm parents with vital information, and provide positive, proactive support that may make a new mom or dad feel more confident in those early days (and late nights) of new parenthood.
"This is the only routine child wellness visit recommended by AAP that doesn't actually require a child in the room," Arthur Levin, MD, FAAP, incoming chair of the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, says in a press release. "They can talk to the pediatrician before the fatigue of new parenthood sets in and there's an adorably distracting little human in their arms who may be crying, spitting up or in immediate need of feeding or a diaper change."
Then, when that time comes, you will have the introductions out of the way and can get down to the business of caring for babies and their parents.
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What questions parents should ask during prenatal pediatric visits
In addition to simply recommending the prenatal pediatric appointment, the authors also suggest examples of questions to use during the visit.