As a nurse, I learned long ago the importance of Newborn Screening. It wasn’t until I became a mother, though, that I truly appreciated newborn screening. Knowing that my little one was tested for these conditions went a long way toward giving me peace of mind when bringing Mister home from the hospital nearly seven years ago. Then when Sister was born, I knew that the newborn screening was especially important, since she is adopted and we don’t know all of her family history. The same applied when Little Miss was born.
Newborn Screening is important because it ensures that all babies are screened for certain serious conditions at birth. States vary by what is required testing for the newborn screening, but generally all it takes is a few drops of blood, pulse oximetry, and a simple hearing test. Generally speaking, for the babies affected by the conditions being tested for, it is imperative to start treatment as early as possible, even before symptoms develop. Many new parents misunderstand the true nature of newborn screening. It is not diagnostic. It identifies the babies who may have the condition, so that definitive follow-up testing can be offered to determine if the condition is truly present. While it is not diagnostic, newborn screening has been shown to detect treatable conditions in 1 in 300 newborns per year.
In most cases, newborn screening in performed within the first 24-48 hours after birth, prior to baby being discharged to home. In the event of a home birth, the coordination of your newborn screening will take a little more pre-planning. Most mid-wives are able to perform the heel stick, pulse oximetry, and the hearing test for you, but you may need to pre-order the kit for the heel stick. Other mid-wives will prefer that you have the tests performed by your pediatrician or your family practitioner, so be sure to ask before baby is scheduled to arrive. If you are having the newborn screening done in office, be sure to ask specifically if they have the newborn pulse oximetry attachment. An adult attachment will give a false low reading.
The conditions that newborns are screened for differ by state. Most states screen for 29 of the 31 conditions recommended by the Discretionary Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children. Since my kids were all born in different states, I made sure to look up newborn screenings by state, to see what all they were tested for.