All parents-to-be, especially first-time parents, should visit a pediatrician during the third trimester of pregnancy to establish a relationship, according to an updated clinical report on the prenatal visit issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The report was published online June 25 and in the July issue of Pediatrics.
“It’s a chance to talk about how to keep a baby safe and thriving physically, but also ways to build strong parent-child bonds that promote resilience and help a child stay emotionally healthy,”, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, said in a statement. Dr. Yogman was the lead author of the report and chair of the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health.
A comprehensive prenatal visit gives pediatricians the opportunity to meet four objectives: build a trusting relationship with parents, gather information about family history, provide advice and guidance on infant care and safety, and identify risk factors for psychosocial issues such as perinatal depression, according to the report in Pediatrics.
The prenatal visit allows families and clinicians to learn whether their philosophies align to start a relationship that may last for many years and this visit can include extended family members such as grandparents. In addition, pediatricians can use the prenatal visit as an opportunity to learn more about family history including past pregnancies, failed and successful, as well as pregnancy complications, chronic medical conditions in family members that may affect the home environment, and plans for child care if parents will be working outside the home.
The report also emphasizes “positive parenting” and the role of pediatricians at a prenatal visit in offering support and guidance to help prepare parents for infant care. This guidance may include advice on feeding, sleeping, diapering, and bathing, as well as acknowledging cultural practices.
The authors noted that a prime opporunity to schedule the prenatal visit is when an expectant parent seeking information about insurance, practice hours, and whether the practice is taking new patients.
The AAP advises clinicians to encourage same sex parents, parents expecting via surrogate, and parents who are adopting to schedule a prenatal visit to identify particular concerns they may have.
“This is the only routine child wellness visit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that doesn’t actually require a child in the room,” coauthor Arthur Lavin, MD, also of Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.
The prenatal visit “gives parents an opportunity to really focus on any questions and concerns they may have. They can talk with a 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,” Dr. Lavin said.
“At its heart and soul,” Dr. Lavin noted, “this visit is about laying a foundation for a trusting, supportive relationship between the family and their pediatrician, who will work together to keep the child healthy for the next 18 or 20 years.”
The report recommends the Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Fourth Edition, as a resource for clinicians. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.
SOURCE: Yogman M et al. Pediatrics. 2018; doi: 10.1542/peds. 2018-1218