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Talk with Your Doctor about Newborn Screening

smiling mom and newborn

Content last updated on:
February 21, 2014

The Basics

Newborn screenings are tests that find diseases or disorders in newborn babies. Most tests are done before your baby leaves the hospital.

Newborn screenings can help you make sure your baby grows up healthy by catching conditions early, when they may be easier to treat. With a simple blood test, doctors can tell whether or not your baby has certain diseases or disorders.

Talk about newborn screening with your doctor or midwife before your baby is born.

What tests will my baby need?
Most states require newborn screening. But the number and types of tests are different in each state. Depending on your family health history, you may want to ask for extra tests.

Here are some examples of conditions that can be found early with newborn screening tests.

Thyroid disorder
The thyroid is a gland in the neck that makes hormones. It’s important to find and treat thyroid disorder early to prevent problems with growth and development.

PKU (Phenylketonuria)
Babies with PKU can’t process certain foods and must be fed special formula. PKU can cause mental retardation if it’s not treated early.

Sickle cell disease
Sickle cell disease is a serious blood disorder. It can be watched and treated if it’s found early.

Hearing loss
Finding out early if your baby has hearing loss can prevent problems with speech and language. If your hospital doesn’t test for hearing loss, make sure to have your baby’s hearing checked within the first month.

How are the tests done?
Most newborn screening tests use a few drops of blood taken from the heel of your baby’s foot. The same blood can be used to test for many different diseases. These tests don’t cause any harm or risk to the baby.

A hearing test uses a small microphone or earphone to check how your baby responds to sounds.

For more information, check out these frequently asked questions about newborn screening.

Take Action!

Take Action!

If you are pregnant, find out about newborn screening before your baby is born.

Find out which tests your hospital offers.
Talk with your doctor or midwife about newborn screening. Find out which screening tests are offered at the hospital where your baby will be born.

If your baby isn’t born at a hospital, he still needs to get screened. Take your baby to a hospital or clinic to get checked within a few days of his birth.

What about cost?
Some newborn screening tests are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get your baby screened at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get medical care for yourself and your baby. The toll-free telephone numbers below will connect you to the health department in your area code. Ask them about free care.

  • For information in English, call 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229).
  • For information in Spanish, call 1-800-504-7081.

Follow up.
Ask your doctor when you will get the test results. Some tests may need to be repeated after 1 or 2 weeks, especially if you leave the hospital before your baby is 24 hours old. Make a plan with your doctor.

Schedule well-baby checkups.
Most babies have their first checkup within the first few days of birth. A well-baby visit is when you take your baby to the doctor for a full checkup, separate from any other visit for sickness or injury.

Well-baby visits are an important part of keeping your child healthy.

Start building your child’s health record now.
Keep track of your baby’s test results and shots. Keep medical information in a safe place – you will need it for child care, school, and other activities.

Your family’s health history is an important part of your baby’s health record. Use this family health history tool to keep track of your family’s health. Keep a copy with your baby’s other health information.

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