Newborn Screening Tests - Everything You Need To Know

newborn screening tests

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Congratulations on having a baby!

While there is an air of celebration for you and your loved ones, this is also an important phase where the health of your newborn baby will be thoroughly evaluated in the hospital. Newborn screening tests are crucial to make sure that your infant’s overall condition is healthy and stable post the arrival.

What Is Newborn Screening Tests:

Newborn screening tests, also known as neonatal screening tests or infant screening tests look for developmental and genetic disorders in the newborn baby.

  • Certain metabolic disorders can also be detected through these screening tests. Few conditions can be treated if detected at this stage, while most of them you have to live with.
  • The screening tests will be performed right after the arrival of your baby while you are still in the hospital. The tests are not complicated, mostly a simple blood or hearing test.

[ Read: How To Keep Baby Healthy ]

History Of Neonatal Screening:

Newborn screening began in the 1960s under the observation of Robert Guthrie, who also invented a simple blood test that could detect the possible metabolic disorders in the newborn babies. A disorder or defect in the way the body breaks down food or other products (metabolism) PKU (phenylketonuria.) Since then, scientists have developed more tests, to screen newborns for a variety of severe conditions.

The types of newborn screening tests that are done vary from country to country. Most suggest around eight tests while few institutes or childbirth centers recommend more than dozen tests. Screening tests give only preliminary information that tells doctors to do more precise diagnostic tests.

[ Read: Transient Tachypnea Of The Newborn ]

How Is Newborn Screening Done?

The newborn tests are done via two important screening methods:

1. Blood Test:

Blood samples are collected from the baby’s body, primarily the heels. The blood sample is then sent to a lab for a complete analysis.

2. Hearing Test:

This process involves placing a small earpiece or microphone in the infant’s ear that detects the baby’s hearing abilities.

The tests are done when the baby is between 1-7 days old. Mostly these tests are done before the mother and baby are discharged from the hospital.

[ Read: Newborn Baby Eye Color ]

Are The Newborn Screening Tests Harmful?

The baby will mostly cry when the blood sample is collected. Studies have shown that babies, whose mothers breastfeed them during the procedure, are more comfortable and feel secure. Hearing test is said to be absolutely painless.

Why Are These Tests Performed?

A number of disorders can be detected through the newborn screening tests. While there is a list of more than 40 disorders, some of the most important ones include:

1. Congenital hypothyroidism

2. Galactosemia

3. Cystic Fibrosis

4. Human Immunodeficiency disease (HIV)

5. Organic acid metabolism disorders

6. Sickle cell disease

7. Biotinidase deficiency

[ Read: Baby Boy Weight Chart ]

What Do The Results Mean?

An abnormal result means that the baby has to undergo couple of more tests to diagnose the exact condition before arriving at a conclusion.

Are The Newborn Baby Screening Tests Mandatory?

These tests have been made mandatory in some parts of the world, while they are not in few other countries.

  • In United States, parents have the right to refuse testing in some of the states. (Maryland, Wyoming, or Washington, D.C.). The health care providers can’t test the babies until the parents approve of the same.
  • In most of the other countries or states, the tests have been made compulsory. If the healthcare provider believes testing is important for child’s health, then the parents have no legal right to refuse.

While anxiety is common for you as a parent when your newborn is called for tests, it is important to understand that it is only done to ensure the overall wellness of your child.

Early diagnosis of disorders can save millions of lives, hence it is always good to be proactive than reactive, isn’t it? Share your thoughts with us.

References : 1 , 2

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