Why newborn screening is important

Newborn screening tests check for rare but serious and mostly treatable conditions. Babies with these conditions often look healthy at birth. If a health condition is found early with newborn screening, it often can be treated. This may help avoid more serious health problems for your baby. Newborn screening includes blood, hearing and heart tests.

When is newborn screening done?

All babies in the United States get newborn screening before they leave the hospital, usually when they are 1 or 2 days old. If your baby is not born in a hospital, talk to her health care provider about getting newborn screening before she is 7 days old. Some states require that babies have newborn screening again, about 2 weeks later.

How is newborn screening done?

Newborn screening has three parts:

  1. Blood test. Your baby’s heel is pricked to get a few drops of blood. The blood is collected on a special paper and sent to a lab for testing. The lab then sends the results back to your baby’s health provider.
  2. Hearing screening. The provider places a tiny, soft speaker in your baby’s ear to check how your baby responds to sound.
  3. Heart screening. This test is called pulse oximetry. It checks the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood by using a sensor attached to his finger or foot. This test is used to screen babies for a heart condition called critical congenital heart disease (also called CCHD). CCHD is the most severe heart defects. Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life. Without treatment, CCHD can be deadly.

What happens with the tests results?

Most newborn screening results are normal. If your baby’s results are normal, you won’t hear back about them. But you always can ask your baby’s provider for the results.

In rare cases when the screening results aren’t normal, you’ll get a phone call about 2 to 3 weeks after the testing. This call can come from someone at your state’s newborn screening program or from your baby’s health care provider. If you get a call about your baby’s results, don’t panic. Most of the time your baby simply needs more testing.

Your baby’s provider then recommends another kind of test, called a diagnostic test, to see if there is a health problem. If the diagnostic test results are normal, no more testing is needed. If the diagnostic test results are not normal, your provider can guide you about next steps for your baby.

How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?

March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 34 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early. Each state decides which tests are required. You can find out which conditions your state screens for at babyfirsttest.org.

Learn more about newborn screening at: marchofdimes.org

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One Response to “Why newborn screening is important”

  1. Kit Hannigan Says:

    Thanks for explaining how newborn screening can pick out diseases so that they can be treated early. My wife is expecting our firstborn, and the whole thing is really nervewracking for us first-time parents. I’ll be sure to share this with my wife so we can look for health institutions that do newborn screenings to help us feel more at ease.