Well visits are key to child health and pediatric medicine. Here’s what to know about a well-child visit.
What Is a Well Visit?
A well visit, or well-child visit, is a preventative health appointment with your child’s doctor. You can have a well visit with your primary care doctor or with a doctor who specializes in children’s health.
These visits start right after birth and continue until your child turns 20 years old.
What Is Included in a Well-Child Visit?
At each well-child visit, your doctor will conduct a physical examination, ask about development and milestones, and administer vaccines.
Physical exam. Your doctor will weigh and measure your child to calculate body mass index, or BMI. These numbers are often put on a growth chart to measure your child’s weight and height for their age against other kids in the same age group. This shows if your child is on track and whether they’re growing proportionately.
During a physical exam, your doctor will also:
During well-baby visits, your doctor might also check your baby’s genitals and ask about how many wet and dirty diapers your baby has a day. They might also ask about how often they’re eating, especially right after birth.
Development. As your child grows, they reach milestones around certain ages and learn skills like rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, following instructions, and much more. Your doctor will ask questions about how they’re reaching these milestones and about their social and learning behaviors.
Vaccines. Well-child visits include getting childhood vaccines. These will vary by age but typically include measles, whooping cough, polio, and others. Getting these vaccines prevents serious disease.
How Often Should a Child Have a Well-Child Visit?
Your child grows quickly in the first two years of life, so you’ll have more well-child visits during this time. The first one is scheduled within a few days of birth and then repeats regularly to monitor growth. These are also important for monitoring your health as a new parent and are a good time to talk about postpartum depression or anxiety.
A typical schedule includes well-child checks at ages:
- 3 to 5 days
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 2 years
- 2 ½ years
- 3 years
- Once a year until the child reaches 21 years
As your child gets older, they don’t need vaccines as often as they did in early childhood. Don’t skip your appointments though, even if your children seem healthy. Your doctor will conduct more in-depth vision tests, which should be done every year.
Taking your teenager to well-child visits can help them learn about health and how to build responsibility for their personal habits. These appointments also screen for sex and discuss healthy sex behaviors.
Are Well-Child Visits Covered by Insurance?
The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to cover well-child visits - without requiring a copay or coinsurance, even if you haven’t met your deductible for the year. This means there are no charges as long as your well-child visit is with a doctor or service provider in your network.
Keep in mind that these free visits can only cover preventative care, so if you try to combine other problems like a prescription renewal or treatment for a sudden or ongoing illness, you might get a bill in the mail.
If you have more than one issue to cover, book a second appointment or talk to your doctor’s office about whether they can combine appointments and adjust the coding.
How Should You Prepare for a Well-Child Visit?
To get the most out of your doctor’s appointment, go through this well-child visit checklist before you go and write down:
- Changes in your child’s health and development
- Changes in social behaviors
- Your child’s eating habits
- Any questions or concerns
- Any important information from caregivers or teachers
During your appointment, ask questions to be clear on what your doctor wants you to do and make notes about your next steps.
Well-child visits are important for keeping good health and vaccines up to date. If you have any concerns, it’s also a good opportunity to talk to your doctor.