Newborn Screenings

Not long after birth, your baby will have three simple screening tests done to ensure he or she is healthy and ready to go home. 

Newborn screenings are routinely done on all infants to provide early identification of rare, but serious, health problems. Early screening allows for timely care that enables children to reach their full potential. The screening has three parts:

  • Hearing
  • Heart
  • Blood

Let’s go into a little more detail about what each of these specific parts means for you and your baby — including how it’s done, why we do it, and what happens after the screening is completed.

Hearing Screen

How is it Done?

Small probes are placed in your baby’s ears. The probes create clicks and tones for the baby to hear. Sensors then measure the response of the baby’s hearing nerve.

Why Do We Do It?

While most babies can hear normally, about 1-3 of every 1,000 babies are born with some degree of hearing loss. About half of those have no risk factors. During the first months and years of life, hearing is critical to language and overall development, and it can be very hard to identify hearing loss without a hearing test. The newborn hearing screen helps identify possible hearing loss.

What Happens Next?

If your infant passes the newborn hearing screen, that’s it! You’ll then follow up with your baby’s provider at routine Well Visits. If you have any concerns about hearing at any time, be sure to bring them up.

If your infant fails the initial hearing screen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your infant has hearing loss — just that he or she will need further testing. Information will be provided to you about how to schedule a repeat hearing test. If after further testing, hearing loss is still suspected, your provider will help establish appropriate care. Infants with hearing loss detected early can receive early intervention services to help them go on to develop appropriate language and learning skills.

Heart Screen

How is it Done?

After the first 24 hours of life, a small, soft sticker is placed around your baby’s right hand. Another is placed around one foot. These stickers have a sensor that measures heart rate and oxygen level in the blood.

Why Do We Do It?

Most babies are born with healthy hearts, but about 1 in 100 infants is born with a congenital heart defect, and about ¼ of those infants have what we call a critical congenital heart defect. A critical congenital heart defect requires urgent treatment for optimal outcomes. While some congenital heart defects are identified during pregnancy via ultrasound, not all are. The heart screen is a quick and painless way to easily identify if a baby has a congenital heart defect.

What Happens Next?

If the heart screen is normal, it will be documented in your baby’s chart and reviewed by your baby’s pediatric provider as part of the newborn exam and plan of care. If the screen suggests a problem, the provider will examine the baby and order appropriate follow-up testing. If a baby fails the initial heart screen, that does not mean there is a heart defect. Further testing will help identify any true heart defects, and your provider will keep you informed throughout the entire process.

Blood Screen

How is it Done?

After the first 24 hours of life, a medical professional will obtain a blood sample by doing a doing a quick prick of your baby’s heel to obtain a few drops of blood. The blood is then sent to the State Newborn Screening program.

Why Do We Do It?

The newborn blood screen is designed to identify metabolic and endocrine diseases in infants. Although most of these disease are extremely rare, they can have very serious consequences, which is why we screen every baby for them. Screening allows these diseases to be identified and treated as soon as possible. When these diseases are diagnosed quickly, early treatment can make a HUGE difference in the health of your  baby.

What Happens Next?

The State Newborn Screening Program sends the results of the blood screening to your baby’s pediatric provider. If there are any urgent abnormal results, the provider will contact you immediately and discuss appropriate treatment. Abnormal results often mean more testing is needed to make a definitive diagnosis. If diagnostic tests are positive, your baby’s provider will guide you through the appropriate steps to help your newborn receive the best possible care. If results are normal, they will be reviewed with you at your child’s One-Month Well Child Visit.

Summary

The goal of newborn screening is to quickly identify potential health problems. Early recognition and intervention can save lives, prevent serious health consequences, and ensure optimal health for all newborns!

If you have any questions on the newborn screening program, just let us know. We’re always happy to help, and to answer any questions you may have!

Rachel McCarrison, DNP, RN, CPNP-PC, has been a Kids Plus Provider since 2016.

Brody Webster spent a rotation at Kids Plus as a PA Student from Slippery Rock University.