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How to Make the Most of Doctor Visits

It seems like one of the main roles of mothers today is taking kids to doctors visits. Whether it’s the pediatrician or the dentist or the chiropractor, we often find ourselves in situations where we are communicating with health care professionals. I wanted to share a few tips for making the most of your doctor visits–for both you and for your kids!

One of the biggest surprises I had as a new mom was how uncomfortable I would get during pediatrician visits. I didn’t know what questions to ask or even what was normal development for my child. I assumed the pediatrician and nurses would tell me what I needed to know. But instead of providing me with the information I was craving, the staff asked me what questions I had. I panicked when I didn’t have any questions or even know what to ask!

Now I make sure to write down my questions before the appointment so I don’t forget!

What to ask peditrician | Des Moines moms blog

It wasn’t until I became a birth and postpartum doula that I learned how to maximize visits with doctors. Many of my clients face the same struggles with their OB/newborn appointments that I had with my pediatrician. Whether you are at an OB appointment, a pediatrician appointment, or any other doctor appointment, these tips can help you gather important information, feel confident in your decisions as a patients/parent, and make the most of each visit you have with the doctor.

Plan Ahead

One of the biggest problems I had was that I never knew what was going to happen during that particular visit. Were they going to take blood? Would I need to undress? Were there procedures I didn’t know about?

One tip is to ask some questions to the receptionist when you make the appointment. Ask questions like:
“What can I expect to happen at this visit?” or
“What will the doctor be checking for at this visit?”.

You can also ask friends who are using the same provider or in a Facebook group like the Des Moines Moms Blog neighborhood groups!

Make the most of doctor visits | des moines moms blog

Know What Questions to Ask

Have you heard of Informed Consent/Informed Denial questions? These are a series of generic questions meant to help you gather more information from any provider. Then, when you have the information, you are able to make the decision for yourself/child. It’s important to know that these questions aren’t meant to discourage you from your doctor’s suggestions, rather to open a dialogue about what’s best for you/your child.

  • B—What are the benefits of doing this procedure/medication/test?
  • R—What are the risks of doing this procedure/medication/test?
  • A—What are the alternatives to this?
  • I—What does your intuition say?
  • N—What if I choose to do nothing?

Here 10 questions to ask your pediatrician from Dr. Sears.

make the most of your doctor visit | des moines moms blog

It’s OK to Say No

Studies show that OB visits and pediatric visits are two times in our lives where informed consent rarely happens. According to Carrie Baron, MD in Psychology Today:

Saying no can feel like a huge risk. You might worry that your rebuff could elicit rejection, retaliation or rage. And in fact, it might. In an ideal world your need/ wish to say no would be respected, honored and not questioned with no pressure to explain.

Dr. Vanessa Bohns, assistant professor of management sciences at the University of Waterloo in Ontario states:

One tiny word can be very hard to say. One of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong. Saying no feels threatening to our relationships.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’d rather not go along with the doctor’s suggestions, give yourself permission to say “no thank you” or “not today” or “I’d like more time to think about this.”

Often times our health care providers are simply following a set protocol or routine they use with all of their patients. Sometimes as mothers we might have to choose a different path–and that’s ok! We do the best we can with the knowledge we have at any given time (even when it’s not an easy decision).

So what are we supposed to do as women and mothers?

Establish a good team. Find doctors who you are very comfortable having difficult conversations with. Write down all of your questions before you get to the office. Finally, if you are ever uncomfortable with a doctor or office staff, find a new provider. It might be in the same group or you may find the need for a completely new practice to check out.

Finally, trust your intuition as a woman/mother. It’s okay to not know all of the questions to ask or the answers to everything–just find your confidence knowing that you are doing the best you can!

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