What You Need to Know about Newborn Screenings

What You Need to Know about Newborn ScreeningsNewborn screenings are part of your baby’s very first health exam. Every baby regardless of symptoms or family history undergoes newborn screenings in the hospital. Babies not born in a hospital should be screened at a hospital or clinic within a few days of birth. Here’s what you need to know about newborn screenings:

Why are Newborn Screenings Important?

The short answer is: Newborn screenings save lives and help parents make informed decisions about their babies’ health. Newborn screenings test for a range of disorders. Some of them are life-threatening while others are less critical, at least in your baby’s immediate future. Also, some conditions need to be addressed with medication, supplementation, diet or procedures right away. Other conditions will give you information about your baby’s health that may not come into play for years down the road.

What Health Conditions are Checked in Newborn Screenings

Every state in the U.S. offers newborn screenings however the exact tests that are done vary by state. Most states run a battery of tests related to congenital diseases ranging from the baby’s ability to metabolize certain nutrients or produce crucial hormones, to immunodeficiencies, hearing lost or heart conditions. You can find out exactly which conditions are screened in your state from the Baby’s First Test website.

How are Newborn Screenings Conducted?

Most of the health conditions checked in newborn screenings are done through a simple blood test. A nurse will likely prick your baby’s heel to get a blood sample and the results will be sent to your pediatrician within five to seven days. A hearing test is done by placing a soft speaker near your baby’s ear to check her response to sound. A heart test is conducted using a pulse oximetry sensor on your baby’s finger or toe to check the amount of oxygen in her blood. Each of these tests takes a matter of seconds or minutes and are non-invasive. You may not even realize they are happening and your baby probably won’t either.

What Happens if a Problem is Discovered?

If your baby’s results come back abnormal, further tests will be done to get a better understanding of your baby’s health. Your pediatrician can review the test results with you and make recommendations on the best secondary testing necessary based on the lab results. Sometimes medication, vigilance or simply being aware of the problem is all the treatment that is required.

Sources: CDC, Baby’s First Test, March of Dimes and Kid’s Health