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The importance of newborn screenings

If you’re pregnant and about to deliver, there’s so much excitement ahead! During pregnancy, you’ve taken the steps for a great start by eating healthy, exercising, attending prenatal visits, and classes. And a remarkable chapter is about to begin, motherhood.

Once your baby arrives, your doctor will go over any recommended newborn screening tests to help identify any possible health conditions.

The CDC states, that screening identifies conditions that can affect a child’s long-term health or survival. Early detection, diagnosis, and intervention can prevent death or disability and enable children to reach their full potential.

Each year, over 5,000 babies are born with one of the conditions included in state newborn screening panels, so it’s important to have your baby tested.

What is this screening?

The screening is a state public health service that reaches each of the nearly 4 million babies born in the U.S. each year. According to the Baby’s first test site, the test ensures that all babies are screened for certain serious conditions at birth. For those babies with conditions, it allows doctors to begin treatment before harmful effects happen.

When and how is this done?

The screening will be done soon after the birth of your baby, and in most cases, while you are still in the hospital. There are three parts to newborn screenings: a heel stick to collect a small blood sample, painless skin sensors ( called pulse oximetry) to look at the oxygen level in the baby’s blood, and a hearing screening which is done with a small earphone, microphone, or both.

What are the facts?

  • The conditions newborns are screened for differ in each state.
  • Most states screen for 29 of the 35 conditions recommended by the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children.
  • The blood test is generally performed when a baby is 24 to 48 hours old.
  • Every baby born in the U.S. will be screened unless a parent decides to opt-out for religious reasons.

When you will get results?

According to ACOG, the results of some tests (hearing and pulse oximetry) may be available before you leave the hospital. Blood test results will take longer. Your baby’s doctor should get the results and share them with you. In some cases, your state health dept will give you the results.

Why do some babies need to be retested?

Some babies may need another blood test. ACOG states the reasons for this may include the following:

  • You leave the hospital before the baby is 24 hours old.
  • Your state requires a second test for all babies.
  • Not enough blood was collected for the first test.
  • The results of the first test are not clear.
  • The results of the first test show a possible health problem.

Retesting does not necessarily mean that your child will have a health problem.

If you have questions or concerns talk with your Ob/Gyn or baby’s doctor. There may be other tests that you would like your baby to have besides the ones required by the state.

You can also contact the North Carolina Health Dept newborn screening program, or visit Baby’s First Test online at www.babysfirsttest.org.

Educational Resources:







The information on this site is intended to raise awareness, and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis, or a substitute for health care by your physician.

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