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 these 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 aren’t the same 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. To make up for the foods they can’t eat, they have to drink a special formula. PKU can also 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 serious pain, infections, or stroke. If it’s found early, sickle cell disease can be treated.
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The Basics: Other Tests

Heart defects

Heart defects (problems with the way the heart develops) can cause serious problems or death if they're not found and treated early.

Doctors test for heart defects by placing a small sensor on your baby's hand or foot. The test is painless and only takes a few minutes.

Hearing

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, ask your doctor to check your baby’s hearing within the first month.

It's also important to have your baby's hearing checked regularly, since some hearing loss starts later on. 

If your child has hearing loss, early intervention programs can help. Early intervention programs help teach communication and social 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. You can also take your baby to a hospital or clinic to get screened 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 less than 24 hours after giving birth. 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 HealthCare.gov.

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. Be sure to 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.

A well-baby checkup is a full checkup from your baby’s doctor that you schedule ahead of time. This is different from other visits for sickness or injury. Most babies have their first well-baby checkup 2 to 3 days after coming home from the hospital.

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 another 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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