When you’re pregnant, there’s a lot of things you prepare for. You have nine months to get both yourself and your home prepared for a newborn. From baby-proofing the home to buying buggies, diapers and even planning how you’ll get your little one home – there’s just so much to get in order before your baby arrives.
One thing you may not have given much thought to is screening tests. Did you know as soon as your beautiful infant is born, they need to undergo several screening tests? These ensure your baby is healthy and there are no underlying issues.
It helps to learn as much as you can about the various screening tests available so below you’ll discover more about each test and why they are carried out.
Newborn Blood Test
One of the most basic screening tests your little one will have is a blood test. Sometimes this is referred to as a heel test and it involves pricking the baby’s heel and placing small droplets of blood onto filter paper card. This will then be sent off for analysis.
It does help if the parents get involved with this screening test. You can hold your little one and comfort them while the blood is being collected. This does tend to help make the screening process less traumatic for babies.
As well as a blood test, your newborn will be given a physical assessment. This checks the baby’s heart, eyes and hips. Newborn boys also have their testicles checked. It’s typically carried out up to 72 hours after birth, then a further assessment is provided when your little one reaches six-eight weeks old.
This simple test will give a good indication of whether the infant has any conditions which require further screening. The reason a second assessment is provided is because it can take a while for certain conditions to develop.
Pulse Oximetry Testing
This type of test is given to measure blood oxygen levels. If a baby has a low blood oxygen level for example, it could indicate a heart problem. A small machine known as a pulse oximeter is used and a sensor is placed on baby’s skin. This isn’t painful and it’s considered a non-invasive test.
The pulse oximetry test is carried out on babies up to 24 hours after birth and is a very quick test lasting just a couple of minutes at the most.
The final basic screening provided is designed to test your baby’s hearing. There are actually two different types of hearing tests available and both typically only last 5-10 minutes each. They can even be carried out on your little one while they are asleep. The two different tests include:
Auditory brainstem response – This test determines how the brain responds to sound and analyses the auditory brainstem. Tiny earphones are placed into baby’s ears and various sounds are then played. Small electrodes are also placed across the head to see how the brain reacts to each sound. If there is no consistent response to the different sounds, it could be an indication that your little one has a hearing problem.
Otoacoustics Emissions test – Designed to test different parts of the baby’s ear, the Otoacoustics emissions test again uses tiny earphones, with the addition of a small microphone inserted into the ear. Various sounds are played and the microphone detects echoes. If the hearing is normal the sounds should generate tiny echoes in the ear canal so if none are picked up this does indicate a loss of hearing.
The midwife or pediatrician may carry out either of the tests above, or both of them.
Things To Consider
While the above screening tests are the most common, there are more specialist screening tests available. These test for specific conditions and are not required but are worth using if you have a family history of a specific condition. They are referred to as supplemental screening and you can find out more by chatting to your pediatrician.
It’s also worth noting that screening requirements differ between States. So, it’s important to familiarize yourself with specific rules relating to the state you reside. This also includes finding out the cost of the screening. Again, this will differ between States, but generally the majority of States have a fee for screening. Most health insurance plans do cover this, but it’s still worth finding out more from your local newborn screening coordinator.
It is possible your baby may need to be re-tested. This is usually nothing to worry about, but it can be daunting. There are actually numerous reasons why your baby may need to be re-tested including:
- There was a problem with the initial blood sample
- The state requires more than one test
- You left the hospital less than 24 hours after the birth
- The results show a possible health issue
You will be contacted by the State Health Department or your baby’s health professional if a re-test is required. It’s important to get the second test done as soon as possible.
Overall, newborn screening is important and should always be carried out, even if you have a home birth. While the majority of babies are born healthy, if there are any potential health problems, newborn screening helps detect them early so that they can be addressed before they become too serious.