The Basics: Overview
Talk about newborn screening with your doctor or midwife before your baby is born. Newborn screenings are tests that check for diseases and conditions in newborn babies.
Newborn screening lets doctors find many diseases and conditions early – before your baby shows any signs. Early treatment is important to keep your baby healthy and developing normally.
Most tests are done before your baby leaves the hospital. They don't cause any harm or risk to your baby. Check out these frequently asked questions about newborn screening.
The Basics: Blood Tests
What tests will my baby need?
All states require newborn screening. But the number and types of tests vary from state to state. Depending on your family health history, you may want to ask for extra tests.
Most newborn screening tests use a few drops of blood taken from the heel of your baby's foot. The same sample of blood can be used to test for many different diseases, including:
- Hypothyroidism – The thyroid is a gland in the neck that makes hormones. Hypothyroidism can cause problems with growth and development, but it can be treated if it's found early.
- PKU (phenylketonuria) – PKU means babies can’t process certain foods and must be fed special formula. It can cause intellectual disability (mental skills that are below average) if it’s not treated early.
- Sickle cell disease – This is a blood disorder that can cause problems like serious pain, infection, or stroke. If it’s found early, sickle cell disease can be watched and treated.
The Basics: Other Tests
Heart defects (problems with the heart) can cause serious problems or death if they're not found and treated early.
Tests for heart defects use a small sensor that is placed on your baby's hand or foot. The test is painless and only takes a few minutes.
A hearing test uses a small microphone or earphone to check how your baby responds to sounds. Finding out if your baby has hearing loss can help prevent problems with speech, language, and social development.
If your hospital doesn’t screen for hearing loss, make sure to have your baby’s hearing checked within the first month.
It's also important to have your baby's hearing checked regularly, since some hearing loss starts after the time when newborn screening tests are done.
If your child has hearing loss, early intervention programs can help. Early intervention programs help teach language skills and other skills to kids age 3 and younger who have hearing loss.