What is Newborn Screening? - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Published on September 13, 2019

What is Newborn Screening?

Photo of infant's feetPhoto of infant's feetThe birth of a baby is one of the most exciting times in a parent’s life. However, making sure the baby is healthy can also be stressful. After a baby is born, healthcare providers are required to perform a newborn screening to make sure the baby is healthy. The screening tests spots of blood from the newborn for 53 different endocrine and metabolic disorders that are not noticeable at the time of birth, but can cause serious complications if not treated. During the screening, healthcare providers also perform hearing and pulse oximetry tests to make sure the baby is developing normally.

Screenings take place within the first 24 to 48 hours after birth. Parents will be informed if their baby’s newborn screening result is out of the normal range. Abnormal results do not necessarily mean the baby is ill—there could be many other factors involved. It is important for parents to follow-up with their baby’s primary healthcare provider for more information.

Screenings that take place:

  • Blood Test: The baby’s blood sample is taken through the heel stick test. This is where the baby’s heel is pricked to collect a small sample of blood. This blood is tested for various conditions like congenital hypothyroidism, galactosemia, sickle cell disease to name a few.
  • Hearing Test: Two different tests can be performed to check for hearing loss in babies. The tests take no more than five to 10 minutes. One test is used to determine if certain parts of the baby’s ear respond to sound. The other test evaluates the auditory brain stem and the brain’s response to sound.
  • Pulse Oximetry Testing: This test checks how much oxygen is cntined in the blood. Babies with heart conditions may have low levels of blood oxygen. The test is performed when the baby is 24 hours old to make sure he is healthy.

The results for hearing loss and heart disease are available as soon as the tests are complete. Blood test results can take five to seven days. Most of the time, parents will not hear about results if the screenings are normal. If a test is positive, then more tests are required to confirm a diagnosis.

“Performing a newborn screening is important as it helps parents gather information about the health of their baby. Newborn screening allows healthcare providers to identify and treat certain conditions before they result in illness. Most of the time when these conditions are identified at birth and treated early, the baby is able to grow up healthy and normal,” says Edwardo Tellez MD, PIH Health Pediatrician.”

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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