Newborn Screening is Important for Your Baby
Soon after birth, babies born in the United States are checked for certain medical conditions. Learn why this newborn screening is important for your baby and why you should ask for the screening results.
Newborn Screening is Important
The nursery is decorated, the car seat is ready, and you can't wait to bring your new baby home. But before your newborn comes home, he or she will need some important screening done at the hospital. This screening is called newborn screening and includes a blood test, hearing screening, and, in many hospitals, screening for critical congenital heart defects. Newborn screening is important because even if your baby looks healthy, some medical conditions can't be seen just by looking. If your baby was not born in a hospital or was not screened before leaving the hospital, take him or her to the doctor's office or hospital to be screened as soon as possible.
Newborn screening is important to identify conditions early and prevent serious problems.
Just as important as the screening is making sure your baby's doctor gets the results. If the doctor doesn't tell you about your baby's newborn screening results, ask for them!
A failed screen means your baby's results showed signs of having a condition in the screening. This doesn't always mean that your baby has the condition. It may just mean that more testing is needed. It might seem scary that your baby could have a medical condition, but finding these conditions soon after birth can help prevent serious problems, including brain damage, organ damage, and even death.
Sometimes, all that is needed is a change in your baby's diet. For example, babies with phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot process phenylalanine well. Phenylalanine is found in many protein-rich foods and some sweeteners and can build up in the body of a baby with PKU, resulting in brain damage. This can be prevented if a baby with PKU is put on a special diet early.
For other conditions, your baby might need to take medicine. Babies with hypothyroidism do not make enough thyroid hormone and without treatment can have slowed growth and brain damage. Taking thyroid hormone medication shortly after birth can prevent these problems.
Although treatments for some conditions are more complicated, it is still helpful to know about the condition early. A baby with sickle cell disease is at risk for harmful infections. Identifying these babies right away means that they can receive a daily dose of penicillin, an antibiotic medicine, to help avoid infections and prevent serious problems.
Many hospitals have started screening for critical congenital heart defects. Some babies born with a heart defect can appear healthy at first and go home with their families before their heart defect is detected. These babies risk having serious complications within the first days of life and often require emergency care. Newborn screening can identify some of these babies so they can be seen by heart specialists and receive care and treatment that can prevent disability and death early in life.
- Ask for your baby's newborn screening results.
- If your baby fails the screening tests, get additional tests or necessary treatments right away – don't wait!
- Page last reviewed: September 15, 2014
- Page last updated: September 15, 2014
- Content source:
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs