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Finding a pediatrician for your internationally adopted child

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

Finding the best medical care

Your internationally adopted child, regardless of age, needs a good pediatrician in the same way that a newborn biological child does. Your adopted child from another country, however, may have several and different medical concerns that an average newborn does not, and keeping these in mind when selecting a physician for your child is important.
 

Can you go to a general pediatrician?

It all depends on your particular child.

Many adoptive parents already have a pediatrician for their biological child(ren). This pediatrician may be an incredible health care provider, but without specific knowledge of your child's background and experience with similar children, she might miss something significant.

For example, children from Ethiopia often have giardia, an intestinal parasite that causes abdominal bloating, acute watery diarrhea and pain. Left untreated, it can prevent nutrient absorption. Yet, repeated stool sample tests can produce erroneously negative results. Many health care providers familiar with treating children from Ethiopia treat for giardia when symptoms are apparent, regardless of test results, and will know when stronger doses and longer periods of medication are required.

When Jenny M of Indiana brought her 7-month-old son, Ashenafi, home from Ethiopia, she was convinced he had giardia based on his symptoms and exposure to the many other infected children in his orphanage. Repeated stool samples came back negative, however, so Ashenafi's pediatrician declined to treat him. Eventually, Jenny's 4-year-old biological son began showing symptoms, too. She contacted Dr. Aronson, who gave her helpful recommendations to pass onto Ashenafi's pediatrician. After one round of treatment for Ashenafi and two for his older brother, the symptoms disappeared, and both children recovered.

Resources for finding a physician and gathering information

You might be fortunate enough to live in a city with a specialized adoption clinic dedicated to treating children born overseas. You'll find a fairly comprehensive list at Comeunity.com/adoption/health/clinics.html. If you do not live near a clinic or prefer an alternative (due to insurance coverage, for instance), ask for a referral from your adoption agency.

Sometimes, the best referrals come from word of mouth, and adoptive parents are typically happy to share their physician recommendations with one another. For example, they might be able to point you to a great pediatrician who, although not technically a specialist in the area of international adoption, sees many internationally adopted children in his practice. If you don't know any other adoptive parents in your area, search Yahoo groups for an adoptive group in your city (either in general, or specific to the country in which your child was born), and post a message asking for recommendations.

You also can connect with parents going through the adoption process on our SheKnows adoption message boards.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Of course, nothing in this article is offered as medical advice -- just some simple suggestions to ensure the best care possible for your new child. In fact, many families find that their newly adopted child has very few, if any, notable health concerns. Still, it's always best to be prepared.  Addressing your child's health is part of the journey of becoming an adoptive parent. Smooth the way by lining up the right pediatrician beforehand, so you can greet your new child with the gift of continued health.

For more tips on adoption:

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