Going to a family physician (or FP) for prenatal care is quickly becoming a popular choice with lots of women. Many find it convenient to have almost all of their medical needs satisfied by one doctor. They also like the fact that their entire family can be looked after by the same doctor.
What is a Family Practitioner?
An FP is a physician that has been trained in all facets of primary care. They are trained to take care of the entire family and all age groups. Not only do family physicians look after your physical health, but your mental and emotional health as well. Many family physicians have also been trained in obstetrics, meaning that they can provide you with prenatal care and may even deliver your baby. Those that do not have obstetrical training will refer you to an OB/GYN for your prenatal care but will be able to serve as your newborns primary care giver when the time comes.
The fact that an FP can provide the services that would normally entail seeing multiple doctors is appealing to many mothers, especially those with hectic lives. FPs can simplify the medical process for many people. An FP can take the place of a pediatrician, a psychologist, a gynecologist and an obstetrician. FPs are trained to provide counseling services for their patients. They can also advise you on nutrition if you wish. They will order tests if you need them and then analyze the results. And of course they can diagnose general health problems and prescribe medication so you’ll feel better.
Many women like the fact that they can develop a long and lasting relationship with their FP since an FP will be very familiar with all the dynamics of their personal and family health and will provide them with continuous care. If a serious problem were to arise with any aspect of your health care, an FP can refer you to a specialist who has more training with that specific problem.
Family Physician vs. General Practitioner
On the surface, an FP can seem very similar to a general practitioner, or GP. Both types of doctors provide well-rounded medical care and are trained to treat a broad-spectrum of issues. Moreover, both can be considered primary care physicians. However, a family physician has received more specialized training in family medicine than a general practitioner.
Family physicians are required to receive 3 years practical experience (or residency) in office, hospital and home settings before they can be certified. Additionally, FP’s are required to continually up date their skills and knowledge in order to be re-certified. The constant training and re-certifying of FPs helps to ensure that they remain well educated and up-to-date on the latest treatment techniques.
General practitioners, on the other hand, may only be required to have completed one year of residency before they can be certified. Also, GPs are often not held to the same stringent training and re-certification obligations as family physicians. Of course, this does not mean that GPs don’t up-date their skills; many do and are just as up-to-date with the latest treatments as FPs.
It should be noted, though, that the terms general practitioner and family physician do not mean the same thing in every country. In Britain, for instance, a doctor classified as a GP may have specialized in family medicine and therefore has the same qualifications as a family physician rather than a general practitioner. Furthermore, while family physicians have been specially trained in family medicine, they do not have the same extensive pediatrics training as pediatricians.
Finding an FP
To find a family practitioner in your area, contact the American Academy of Family Physicians. In Canada, contact your provincial chapter of the College of Family Physicians. However, be aware that not all family physicians deliver babies, so make sure you ask about this when you meet with them.
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