Newborn screening looks for rare but serious and mostly treatable conditions. Babies with these conditions often look healthy at birth, but if the disorder is not diagnosed and treated early, a baby may develop serious health problems. Newborn screening identifies babies with these conditions so they can get the treatment that they need. 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, when they are 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 her provider about getting newborn screening before she is 7 days old.
What happens if your baby is in the NICU?
Babies in the NICU may require a special process for newborn screening. If your baby is born prematurely, at a low birthweight, or needs special care in the NICU, it’s possible that some of the treatments and procedures she’s receiving may affect newborn screening results. Often, babies born early will require more than one newborn screening blood draw to make sure that the results are accurate. Talk to your baby’s NICU team if you have questions about newborn screening.
How is newborn screening done?
Newborn screening is done in 3 ways:
- Your baby’s 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.
- For the hearing screening, the provider places a tiny, soft speaker in your baby’s ear to check how your baby responds to sound.
- 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). CCHDs are 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.
When will you get the results?
In most cases after your baby has had newborn screening, you won’t hear any more about them. Most newborn screening results are normal and if that is the case, families are not contacted. But you can always ask your baby’s health care provider for the results.
In rare cases when the screening results are out-of-range, you will receive a phone call about 2-3 weeks following the screening. This call can come from either the state newborn screening program or your baby’s health care provider and it usually means that your baby simply needs more testing.
How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?
The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 35 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 screen for here.