Talk with Your Doctor about Newborn Screening

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Talk about newborn screening with your doctor or midwife before your baby is born. Newborn screenings are tests that check for certain diseases and conditions in newborn babies.

Newborn screening lets doctors find certain 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.

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The Basics: Blood Tests

What tests will my baby need?

All states require newborn screening. But the number and types of tests can 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 the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) can cause problems with growth and development, but it can be treated if it's found early.
  • PKU (phenylketonuria) – People with PKU can’t process certain foods. They must avoid certain foods and drink a special formula. PKU 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.
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The Basics: Other Tests

Heart defects

Heart defects (problems with the way the heart has formed) 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.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Make a Plan

If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor about newborn screening before your baby is born.

Find out which tests your hospital offers.

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

If you aren't planning to give birth at a hospital, your baby still needs to get screened. Ask your midwife if she can screen your baby for you. Or, take your baby to a hospital or clinic to get checked a few days after birth.

Follow up.

Ask the doctor when you will get your baby’s 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.

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Take Action: Cost and Insurance

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

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get medical care for yourself and your baby. Call one of the toll-free phone numbers below to connect with the health department in your area. Ask 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.
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Take Action: Schedule a Checkup

Schedule well-baby checkups.

Most babies have their first checkup 2 to 3 days after coming home from the hospital. A well-baby visit is when you take your baby to the doctor for a full checkup. This is different from other visits for sickness or injury. Find out why well-baby visits are important for keeping your child healthy.

Start building your child’s health record now.

Keep track of your baby’s test results and shots. Put 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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