Newborn Screening Tests

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    Newborn Screening Tests

    Newborn Screening Tests

    Newborn screening tests are done at the hospital soon after your baby is born. These tests are done to check for any health conditions your baby was born with. Sometimes, these are rare conditions that might not show any symptoms at birth. The purpose of screening tests is to find and treat a problem as early as possible. Early treatment may prevent or reduce future harmful effects of the condition and even save a child's life.

    Types of newborn screening tests

    The types of screening tests are not the same in all states. Each state has its own screening routine. All tests are usually done before your child leaves the hospital.

    Blood test

    Between 24 and 48 hours of life, your baby may have a heel stick to collect a sample of blood for testing. This blood test can be used to screen for more than 60 conditions that babies can be born with, including:
    • Disorders that interfere with the way your baby uses or makes important nutrients for energy. These are called metabolic disorders.
    • Disorders that interfere with important chemical messengers (hormones) in the body. These are called endocrine disorders.
    • Blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease.
    • Other rare disorders, such as cystic fibrosis.

    An abnormal result means that there is a risk of having one of the conditions in question. Results are usually available within a week. If your baby has an abnormal result, more testing will need to be done.

    Hearing test

    Your baby may have a hearing test prior to discharge from the hospital. This simple, painless test checks how your baby's brain reacts to sound. It can be done while your baby is sleeping. The results of this screening test are available as soon as the test is completed.

    Pulse oximetry

    Pulse oximetry is another test that may be done when your baby is at least 24 hours old. If your baby will be discharged from the hospital before 24 hours of age, the test would be done as late as possible prior to leaving the hospital. This is a test to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood.

    This painless test uses a sensor that attaches to your baby's right hand and either foot. Low levels of oxygen may be caused by a heart defect that some babies are born with (critical congenital heart diseases). More testing may be needed if your baby has low oxygen. Results of this screening test are available as soon as the test is completed.

    What can I expect after the tests?

    It is up to you to get the results of the tests. Ask your baby's health care provider, or the department that is doing the tests, when the results will be ready.

    Follow these instructions at home:

    Learn as much as you can about newborn screening tests. Before you give birth is the best time to start your research. You may want to learn more about:
    • Genetic screening for you and your partner. This type of screening is offered to all women before or during pregnancy.
    • Which routine newborn screenings are done in your state. You can get this information from your health care provider, hospital, or state health department.
    • When your baby's health care provider will do any screening tests if you give birth at a birthing center or at home. You may be able to have some routine newborn screening tests done at a later time at the health care provider's office.

    Questions to ask your health care provider

    • What routine newborn screenings will my baby have?
    • What are the benefits of these tests?
    • Are there any risks associated with any of these screening tests?
    • If I am concerned about a screening test for my baby, can I decide not to have it done?
    • Are there any additional screening tests that you would recommend?
    • Will my insurance cover screening tests?
    • When will the test results come back?
    • When will we discuss the results of the testing and what they may mean for my baby?

    Where to find more information

    Visit your state's department of health website for more specific information, or visit the following websites for more general information:


    • Newborn screening tests are done to make sure your baby is healthy and to check whether your baby may have a condition that might not show symptoms at birth.
    • Finding potential problems as early as possible means treatment can be started in time to prevent or limit the harmful effects of the condition.
    • Routine screening tests are not the same in all states.
    • Your newborn will have a hearing test, a pulse oximetry test, and a routine blood test to check for certain conditions.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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