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Important screening tests for newborns

Newborn screening tests help identify rare health conditions at birth. The good news is that, if found early, most conditions can be treated.

Congratulations on being a new parent! After you’ve crossed off the months of pregnancy and the delivery of your baby, the next item on your checklist should be vital newborn health screening testing.

When your baby is between one and two days old, he or she will undergo a series of unique tests to rule out uncommon but often treatable health issues. Tests entail blood, hearing, and cardiovascular screenings.

How is neonatal screening conducted?

The newborn screening process is divided into three stages:

Examination of blood

The majority of newborn screening is performed using a blood test to check for health problems. Your baby’s heel is pricked to obtain a few droplets of blood. The blood is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Blood test results are often available a few days later. Inquire with your baby’s provider or hospital personnel about the timelines for shipping blood samples to the lab and receiving test results.

Hearing examination

This test determines if your baby may have hearing loss. Your provider will insert tiny earphones into your baby’s ears and use specialised computers to determine how your infant reacts to sound.

Cardiovascular screening

This test is designed to detect a group of heart problems known as critical congenital heart disorders in infants. A doctor will measure the oxygen saturation level of your baby’s blood using a pulse oximeter machine and sensors placed on his or her skin.

What if the results of newborn screening are abnormal?

The majority of newborn screening findings are within normal limits. If your baby’s screening results are abnormal, this may simply indicate that he or she needs additional testing. Your baby’s provider will next propose another type of test, called a diagnostic test, to determine if there is a problem with his or her health. If the diagnostic test findings are normal, there is no need for additional testing. If the diagnostic test results are abnormal, your provider can advise you on the next course of action.

A word on hereditary conditions

Numerous health issues detected during neonatal screening are inherited. Inherited refers to something that is passed on genetically from parent to child. Genes are components of the cells in your body that contain instructions for how your body grows and functions.

When one child in a family has an inherited health issue, the likelihood of having the same illness as a brother or sister is greater than if no child in the family has the ailment.

Consult your health care physician or a genetic counselor if you have a child with a health condition and wish to have another child. A genetic counselor is someone who has been trained to assist you in understanding genes, birth abnormalities, and other familial medical disorders, as well as how they can affect your health and the health of your baby.

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