Newborn Screening Tests
Newborn screening involves the administration of a variety of screening tests performed just after the delivery. This screening is not optional but is required by United States law. The screening is done on every baby, whether or not a newborn looks to be in the peak of health. These screening tests focus on specific health conditions and diseases.
A great many of the conditions a doctor prefers to diagnose as early as possible display no visible signs or symptoms at this point. But identifying the presence of these conditions in this earliest stage may make a big difference in your baby's prognosis. Quite soon after the birth, the hospital staff will evaluate your baby's hearing as well as a blood sample that has been taken from your baby's heel. The blood sample enables the staff to test for a large number of disorders at one fell swoop.
In all likelihood, your baby will pass his screening tests with flying colors. Experts estimate that only one tenth of 1% of all infants screened will be found to have a medical condition or disease. Even if these early screening tests should yield an abnormal result, it's still probable that your baby is just fine.
The newborn screening tests give a very general assessment of your baby's health status that can clue doctors in on whether more intensive, precise diagnostic testing is necessary. Only by following through with further testing will you discover whether or not your baby has a health problem.
If you had a hospital birth, the hospital staff will take the responsibility of ensuring your baby's blood is drawn for the screening tests prior to your release. The sample is then sent on to a state-run public health laboratory. At the lab, your baby's blood sample will be analyzed and the results sent on to the hospital where the baby was born. Parents are only notified of the test results if these results suggest there is a problem requiring further evaluation. So: no news is good news. You don't want to ever hear about those screening test results and it's likely you never will.
If the hospital's policy is to release mother and baby within a day of the delivery, it's possible you will need to return to the hospital during the next two weeks to complete the screening tests. This is due to the fact that a number of the screening tests must be performed on the second day after delivery or somewhat later. In some states, newborns are required to be retested at 2 weeks as a precaution.
If you give birth at home, you will need to contact your local health department to find out how newborn screening is done in your area after a home birth.