What Is a Pediatrician?

One of the many things you need to do to prepare for your little ones' arrival is to choose a doctor to oversee their health care. A pediatrician is medical doctor who manages the physical, behavioral, and mental care for children from birth until age 18. A pediatrician is trained to diagnose and treat a broad range of childhood illnesses, from minor health problems to serious diseases.

Pediatricians have graduated from medical school and completed a three-year residency program in pediatrics. A board-certified pediatrician has passed rigorous exams given by the American Board of Pediatrics. To remain certified, pediatricians have to meet regular continuing education requirements.

What Does Your Pediatrician Do?

Your pediatrician will see your twins many times from birth to age 2 and annually from age 2 to age 5 for "well-child visits." After age 5, your pediatrician will likely to see your children every year for annual checkups. Your pediatrician is also the first person to call whenever one of your children is sick. In caring for your twins, a pediatrician will:

  • Do physical exams
  • Give your children recommended immunizations
  • Make sure your twins are meeting developmental milestones in growth, behavior, and skills
  • Diagnose and treat your children's illnesses, infections, injuries, and other health problems
  • Give you information about your twins' health, safety, nutrition, and fitness needs
  • Answer your questions about your children's growth and development
  • Refer to and collaborate with a specialist should one of your children become ill and need care beyond the pediatrician's expertise

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How Does Your Pediatrician Work With Your Delivery Team?

Most hospitals ask if you have a pediatrician when you go in to deliver. Your twins' first examination may be with a hospital pediatrician or your chosen pediatrician. This depends on hospital policy and whether your pediatrician makes rounds at the hospital where you deliver, and whether your twins were born early.

If your twins are born early, they will probably go right to the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. Highly specialized NICU doctors and nurses will care for your babies and monitor their health until they develop enough to come home.

Your pediatrician will be given the records from your twins' stay in the hospital. After you leave the hospital, your pediatrician will see your babies 48 to 72 hours after discharge, then regularly after that for "well-child visits."

If one of your children ever needs more specialized care, your pediatrician will coordinate care with other providers. He or she will help you understand complex information and help you make decisions as needed.

Why Do You Need a Pediatrician?

Family physicians can also provide routine care for your children. Choosing between a family doctor and a pediatrician can be a personal preference. Here are some reasons to consider choosing a pediatrician:

  • Pediatricians have specialized training in the physical, emotional, and behavioral needs of children.
  • Pediatricians only see children, so they often have a broader experience recognizing and treating childhood illnesses.
  • If your twins were born early or have a health condition that needs close monitoring, a pediatrician may offer more specialized care.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 12, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Alex Folkl, MD, McMaster University Family Medicine Residency, Hamilton, Ontario.

Beth Nelsen, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Associate Pediatric Residency Program; Director, SUNY Upstate Medical University and Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital, Syracuse, N.Y.

Ohio State Medical Center: "The Pediatrician"

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Pediatrics 101."

HealthChildren.org: "Why Choose a Pediatrician?" and "A Pediatrician's Training."

© 2016 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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