What to expect from newborn screenings

September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month, and we invited Lisa Griswold BSN, RNC-OB, nursing services manager, Mother/Baby, Family Birthing Center - Parkview Regional Medical Center, to share what parents can expect and why these screenings are essential for their baby’s health.

Which screenings are administered?

The Newborn Screening is a set of three tests that will help identify health conditions in newborns.  These tests include the Universal Newborn Hearing Screen, Pulse Oximetry and the Heel Stick.

What is the timeline for screenings and where would parents get them?

The Newborn Screening is completed between 24 and 48 hours of age. It is done at the hospital before the baby goes home. If a family wants to leave before 24 hours, a preliminary heel stick is obtained, but the family must return by the time the baby is 48 hours old to have a valid heel stick (one between 24-48 hours would make the heel stick valid).  

Why are these screenings so important?

The sooner we identify a disease the newborn may have, the sooner we can intervene and ensure appropriate follow-up care. It helps to make sure the baby will have effective treatment. A newborn may appear to be healthy, but can have serious health conditions that can be detected through newborn screening. If the condition is left undetected and untreated, these conditions can result in developmental delays and fatalities. When caught early, treatments can lead to healthier development and a longer life.

What can the screenings detect?

Indiana’s Newborn Screening law requires that every baby is tested for 49 different conditions, including endocrine disorders, cystic fibrosis, inborn errors of metabolism, hemoglobinopathies, congenital heart defects and hearing loss. The hearing screen detects hearing loss and can be completed as soon as 6 hours after birth. We usually do this around 24 hours of age.

Pulse Oximetry measures heart rate and oxygen levels to determine heart and lung function.  This is completed between 24 and 48 hours after birth. The heel stick is a blood test that is used to screen for genetic conditions that would otherwise go undetected. This must be performed before the baby is discharged.

What do parents need to know about the screening process?

For the heel stick, a lab technician will come to the patient room at around 24 hours of age and draw a few drops of blood from the baby’s heel. The blood is then sent to the state for testing.  The pediatrician will be notified of the results and will let the parents know these results during their outpatient appointment.

We also assess infants for hyperbilirubinemia (high bilirubin) before they go home. These can be done in a few different ways – either through a blood draw or using a TCB device. It is completed anywhere from 24 to 36 hours. 

If parents would like more information regarding the Newborn Screening, they can visit the Indiana State Department of Health website.

 

 

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