Can a family physician manage my pregnancy and care for my newborn?

In this undated stock image, a child gets a check up from a physician | Image courtesy of Martin Barraud/iStock Getty Images, St. George News

SOUTHERN UTAH — Mothers-to-be face exciting new decisions – like what to name their baby or how to decorate the nursery – but they also face new decisions about their healthcare. Many wonder if they should see an OB/GYN provider or a family doctor for the pregnancy, and after the delivery, the question may arise as to whether the baby should be taken to the family doctor or a pediatrician.

Family medicine provider Dr. Scott Barton of the Revere Health St. George Clinic, said these are all important decisions.

“Lots of factors can influence them,” Barton said, “so it’s important to assess the healthcare needs of both you and your baby.”

Family medicine versus OB/GYN

A family physician with obstetric training can care for the majority of women and their pregnancies. Both family physicians and OB/GYNs give routine preventive care, but family physicians can also care for chronic conditions like hypertension, elevated cholesterol, psychiatric conditions, various acute and chronic infections, general dermatology, diabetes care and fracture care.  

Many women like seeing their family doctor throughout their pregnancy because after their baby is born, they can take their baby to see the same doctor,” Barton said. “During the nine months of pregnancy, we develop a relationship with the moms and we know their situations, their needs and how those relate to their new baby. We then can continue to care for the whole family after the baby is born.”

High-risk pregnancies may require care from a perinatologist or OB/GYN specialist depending on the woman’s individual needs. Previous high-risk pregnancies, twin or triplet pregnancies or pregnancies complicated by things like placenta previa may be best treated by a specialist.

OB/GYN providers are trained to perform gynecologic surgery, such as hysterectomies, but both family physicians and gynecologists offer services including Pap smears, breast cancer prevention, hormone management, birth control and others. Barton advises consulting your primary care physician about your needs for specialized obstetric care.

Family medicine versus pediatrics

Both pediatric physicians and family physicians are able to take care of most pediatric needs. Pediatricians typically have more experience in intensive care settings and caring for children with severe chronic illness, but family medicine providers receive additional training in surgical services, dermatology procedures and fracture care.

It’s rare to find a child that family practitioners don’t have the capacity to care for,” Barton said. “We give very similar care to pediatricians, including vaccinations, preventive care and physicals. We can also treat children with diabetes or asthma, and even behavioral issues like depression or ADD.”

Pediatricians are generally better trained to care for complicated feeding issues (e.g., tube feedings) or children who are coming out of the surgical or trauma intensive care unit. Uncommon genetic conditions or syndromes – cerebral palsy, for example – may also be best reserved for a pediatrician.

“Overall, family medicine providers are well equipped to care for the majority of pediatric and obstetrical needs,” Barton said. “We offer complete care for the entire family, and a lot of patients enjoy that. If your situation is complicated, we welcome the help of these highly trained counterparts and can consult with or refer to a specialist to meet those needs if necessary.”

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