Screening tests for newborns are done to check for any serious and rare conditions. Usually, these tests are performed within 24 to 48 hours of a baby’s birth. Your baby might feel a little discomfort or no discomfort at all during the screening test.
These tests are performed to detect conditions that do not show any signs at the time of birth. Some of these conditions are very serious which can be prevented only with early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are only preliminary information.
These tests are used by doctors to determine whether further diagnosis is necessary or not. Here you will get the answer to a few frequently asked questions about newborn tests after birth.
When does a new-born screening test happen?
It is important to get your new-born screened as soon as possible. That is why these tests are carried out within 1 or 2 days after birth. This enables the doctors to detect any type of condition in the baby that might need to be treated right away.
Some babies have already gone through treatments such as dialysis or transfusions; these babies need to be tested again later or whenever their blood has returned to the normal stage. Moreover, premature babies, as well as those babies who were given medicines or nutrients before going through the tests, may require further testing.
Normally, two models for new-born screening are followed—the one-screen model for screening or the two-screen model.
- The one-screen model is widely used. Here the babies are screened or tested only once within the first 24 to 48 hours of birth. This screening tests the baby for any type of condition that he/she might be facing.
- In the two-screen model, the baby is first screened within 24 to 48 hours of birth, and later they are tested again when they become 1 to 2 weeks old.
- The choice of one screen model and two-screen model depends on many factors, such as testing cut-offs of a place or the historical practice there.
- Irrespective of the type of screening followed in your place, your baby might need further screening and tests depending on the new-born screening results.
Where does the new-born screening take place?
NBS is mandatory for all babies, irrespective of the place they are born. You will need to have your baby screened if your baby was born in a hospital. NBS is usually performed in your room by a health care provider or in a nursery area.
Screening can be done outside the hospital as well if your baby is born out of the hospital. This could be at a birth centre or at your house. NBS is a skill that many midwives have been trained in. Talk to your midwife if you plan an out-of-hospital birth. You can make other arrangements for NBS if your midwife is not trained to perform it.
The baby’s healthcare provider can arrange for a screening. You should have a plan in place to ensure that your baby is tested at the age recommended.
What is the procedure for a new-born screening test?
New-born screening is performed in three parts. These are-
- Blood Spot Screening: This screening is also called a 24-hour test or heel stick test. In this screening, a few drops of blood are taken from the heel of the baby to determine whether or not the baby has some serious health conditions.
- Pulse oximeter screening: This test is performed with the help of a sensor that determines whether or not the baby has critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). This is a group of very serious heart problems that are present in the baby at the time of birth. Some forms of CCHD cause the heart to have trouble delivering oxygen from the lungs to the entire body. These babies have low blood oxygen levels. You can determine if your baby requires urgent heart treatment by measuring his blood oxygen level.
- Hearing screening: In this screening, earbuds or earphones are used for a new-born hearing test. Babies usually begin talking around the age of one year, but language development starts at birth. Babies learn sounds and speech by listening to people talk around them in the first month of their lives. Even mild hearing loss can cause a child to struggle to understand words and communicate. It is vital to screen new-borns for hearing loss.
Many diseases that are detected during NBS are serious; they can become a major threat to the life of a new-born if ignored. NBS can help in avoiding such situations by detecting these health conditions at the initial stage. Essentially, these tests are extremely crucial if you want your baby to lead a healthy and disease-free life.