September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month. All babies in the United States get newborn screening. These tests look for rare but serious and mostly treatable health disorders. Babies with these disorders often look healthy. But unless the condition is diagnosed and treated early, a baby can develop lasting physical problems or intellectual disabilities, or may even die.
How is newborn screening done?
Newborn screening is done in 3 ways:
1. Most newborn screening is done with a blood test. Your baby’s provider pricks your baby’s heel 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. For the hearing screening, your provider places a tiny, soft speaker in your baby’s ear to check how your baby responds to sound.
3. For heart screening, a test called pulse oximetry is used. This test 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 (CCHD).
When is newborn screening done?
Your baby gets newborn screening before he leaves the hospital, when he’s 1 or 2 days old. Some states require that babies have newborn screening again about 2 weeks later.
If your baby is not born in a hospital, talk to your baby’s provider about getting newborn screening before he is 7 days old.
How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?
Each state decides which tests are required. The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 31 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early.
Today all states require newborn screening for at least 26 health conditions. The District of Columbia and 42 states screen for 29 of the 31 recommended conditions. Some states require screening for up to 50 or more. You can find out which conditions your state screen for here.