Newborn Screening: Blood Tests for Your Newborn Infant
There are certain blood tests that are performed on newborn infants. This testing is called Newborn Screening. Newborn screening checks for the possibility that an infant may have inherited any of a number of defects in body metabolism. Such defects can cause serious problems if not properly treated. Not all defects can be treated; however, many respond well to dietary adjustments, vitamins, and medicines.
Early screening is important for the health care of your baby. Advances in technology make it possible to screen for more conditions than ever before. That means more conditions can, in many cases, be treated because they are discovered early.
Many inherited disorders of metabolism show little or no signs in a newborn. That is why screening is important. If the doctor finds out about such disorders early, there may be treatments available so that your infant can lead a more normal life.
Newborn Screening Is a Look at Body Chemistry and Other Functions
Some babies have defects in metabolism (inborn errors of metabolism). These defects can affect the way the body digests and handles fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Defects in thyroid function or hemoglobin production (such as sickle cell disease) can also affect a baby’s health.
Routine newborn screening will detect many disorders that result in abnormal metabolism of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, hormones, and blood components.
Fortunately, most of these conditions are rare. That’s why newborn screening is likely to be normal and reassuring, rather than abnormal.
Newborn Screening Is a “Screening”
Remember—this process is a screening and not a diagnosis of disease. Newborns have normal body chemistry changes during the first days and weeks of life. Sometimes the newborn screening results are borderline or abnormal. When this occurs, your baby should be retested to be certain no actual disorder of metabolism is overlooked. When the initial screening is flagged as abnormal or borderline, your baby’s doctor and you will be contacted to have another sample submitted. Sometimes a more precise test will be ordered.
Again, an initial abnormal result does not indicate your baby has one of these disorders. It means further testing will be done in order to not overlook any problems that might affect your baby.
Newborn Screening Does Not Test for All Disorders
Even if results from a newborn screening are normal, it is possible your baby may have problems for some other reason. Be sure to call your doctor or have your baby checked if you suspect your baby is having difficulty.
Newborn Screening Is Easy and Important
The screening procedure is quick and simple
- A small amount of blood is taken from your baby’s umbilical cord or heel.
- The sample is sent to the lab for processing and testing.
Babies who have the test before 48 hours of age, or leave the hospital within this period, should be retested within one to two weeks. A second screening may help pick up any changes not evident with the first sample. As noted earlier, newborns have normal body chemistry changes during the first days and weeks of life.
Newborn Screening: Is It For You and Your Baby?
Newborn Screening is a very important part of a baby’s healthcare. Parents can refuse to have their infant tested. If you do not wish to have the newborn screening performed, you can tell your nurse or doctor when you are admitted to Woman’s Hospital. Some testing may be needed for your baby unrelated to newborn screening in order to provide the best of care. Your decision regarding newborn screening will not affect the ongoing care for your baby.
For More Information
If you have other questions about newborn screening, please talk with your doctor, or call the Woman’s Hospital Medical Genetics Clinic at 225-231-5544.
Woman’s Hospital Laboratory
- Offering convenience for laboratory testing:
- Newborn Screening
- Prenatal Lab Work and Glucose Screening
- Routine Lab Work for women, men, and children
First floor, Physician Office Building
500 Rue de la Vie, next to Woman’s Hospital