Newborn screening allows you to know if your baby has certain conditions or disorders. As parents, we all want our children to grow up healthy and strong, but if there is something that can affect this, it’s essential to prepare and get early treatment. The test is important if you want to prevent any damage to your baby’s growth or development. But before you think too much about the risk of disease, it’s also essential to understand what newborn screening is and how it can impact your child’s overall health. Read on to learn more about this important test.
How a Newborn Screening Test Affects Your Baby’s Health
What Is a Newborn Screening Test?
Newborn screening is a test where newborn babies are screened for potential conditions or disorders that were not apparent at birth. It consists of three parts: the blood test, hearing test, and pulse oximetry.
Why Is a Newborn Screening Test Important?
Primarily, a newborn screening test allows parents to ensure that their baby gets early treatment and diagnosis to avoid developmental, physical, or potentially fatal effects. There are some diseases that manifest in a baby even though the family has no history of it.
A newborn screening test usually detects health conditions that are untreatable, but early diagnosis and treatment are beneficial in many cases. The test can also give you peace of mind that your baby isn’t suffering from the diseases that the test screens for.
How Is the Blood Test Conducted?
The first part of the screening is the blood test. A medical professional will prick the child’s heel and squeeze a few drops of blood. The blood will be placed on a card and sent to a lab where it will be screened for certain chemical abnormalities, which are a sign of a medical condition.
What Happens During the Hearing Test?
There are two methods for the hearing test — otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test and auditory brainstem response (ABR) test. Hospital staff can use either method for the test.
OAE tests determine if some parts of your baby’s ear respond to sound. Hospital staff will place an earphone and a microphone and play a sound. If an echo is reflected back to the ear canal, the baby’s hearing is normal. Otherwise, a loss of hearing might be present.
ABR measures the auditory brainstem (a part of the auditory nerve responsible for carrying sound from the ear to the brain) along with the brain response of your baby. The baby will listen to sounds through earphones placed in his or her ears. Afterward, whoever is conducting the test will place electrodes on the child’s head to detect the brain’s response to the sounds. If there’s an inconsistency in response, the baby may have a hearing problem.
What Is the Pulse Oximetry Test for?
This test, done 24 hours after birth, evaluates the amount of oxygen in the blood. A sensor will detect the oxygen level through the baby’s skin. If the oxygen level is low, the baby may have heart problems.
What Disorders Can the Newborn Screening Test Screen for?
The conditions included in the test differ by state and are subject to change, especially with the advancements in technology. Some of the disorders that the test can detect include:
- severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)
- MCAD deficiency
- cystic fibrosis (CF)
- maple syrup urine disease (MSUD)
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)
- biotinidase deficiency
- sickle cell disease
- congenital hypothyroidism
- phenylketonuria (PKU)
When Should the Test Be Done?
The recommended time period for the newborn screening test is before the baby leaves the hospital after birth, usually when the child is 1 to 2 days old. The same time period applies to home births. Also, take note that some states may require another screening test after 2 weeks.
Where Is a Newborn Screening Done?
Newborn screening takes place in a hospital where the test facilities are available. Parents who chose to have a home birth can consult their doctor on how to go about their baby’s newborn screening test.
Who Does the Newborn Screening Test?
If you give birth in a hospital, a physician, midwife, nurse, or other trained staff can do the test. For home births, a licensed midwife may perform the blood test and send it to a lab for testing. However, it is still essential to visit a hospital to complete the hearing test and pulse oximetry.
To learn more about newborn screening, watch this video from PerkinElmer, Inc.:
A newborn screening test is an important part of your baby’s welfare and health management. While it may be daunting to subject your newborn to a test so early on, remember that it will only have positive consequences in the long run. We hope the information we’ve provided in this post has helped you understand more about what to expect during the process.
What are your thoughts about the newborn screening test? Share your thoughts in the comments section!