Newborn screening is the practice of testing every newborn for certain harmful or potentially fatal disorders that aren’t otherwise apparent at birth.
Many of these are metabolic disorders (often called “inborn errors of metabolism”) that interfere with the body’s use of nutrients to maintain healthy tissues and produce energy. Other disorders that screening can detect include problems with hormones or the blood.
With a simple blood test, doctors often can tell whether newborns have certain conditions that eventually could cause problems. Although these conditions are considered rare and most babies are given a clean bill of health, early diagnosis and proper treatment can make the difference between lifelong impairment and healthy development.
What are screening tests?
Screening tests do not diagnose illnesses. They merely indicate which babies need more testing to confirm or rule out illnesses. In case follow-up testing confirms that the child has a disease, then treatment can be started even before symptoms appear.
How is the newborn screening test done?
Your baby’s heel is pricked for a few drops of blood, ideally within the 24-48 hours of life. Your baby may cry a little when the blood is taken, but he / she will recover very quickly.
A negative screen means that results are normal. A positive screen will require your newborn to be brought back to the paediatrician for further investigation.
The blood taken from your baby’s heel may also be used to carry out other newborn tests to check for conditions such as jaundice.