A newborn baby is sensitive and has to adapt to its new environment after being in the safety of the womb for 9 months. Recent developments in science and medicine have allowed doctors to monitor the condition of a baby right from the moment when the first organs start to take shape. However, it is very important to have a screening done immediately after the birth of the child in order to ensure good health and early detection of any medical conditions.
A newborn screening test is a simple test performed on newborn babies to check for potentially fatal or harmful disorders which cannot be otherwise detected at birth. The screening is performed soon after birth and sometimes before leaving the hospital. The process is simple and includes a blood screening as well as hearing screening tests.
The importance of newborn screening is that it helps in early detection of any adverse condition that the baby might be suffering from which cannot be known otherwise. The Newborn screening results will allow doctors to take necessary action immediately to safeguard the health of the child.
The most important reason for newborn screening for babies is the early diagnosis of a medical condition so that in time care and treatment can be provided to the child. This will help to ensure that the child’s development is healthy and normal.
The infant screening test usually looks for a wide range of disorders which includes the following:
Most of the diseases identified in the baby via newborn screening test can be corrected if action is taken by the certified professionals on a timely basis.
Infant metabolic screening is usually performed immediately after the birth of the child. The right time to do a blood test is between 24 to 48 hours of birth as many conditions might go undetected if the blood sample is drawn before 24 hours and it might get too late to take corrective action if the test is performed after 48 hours. The baby might also need a second screening test when they are two weeks old to ensure accurate results.
A newborn baby is screened for over 50 medical conditions under the following category of tests:
The different kinds of tests include:
The procedure for the metabolic screening test for newborns is simple and not time-consuming. Most tests are carried out within 2 days from the birth of the baby. The blood test is the only painful test as the blood sample is drawn by pricking the child’s heel. The parents can choose to be present when the test procedures are being carried out on the child.
In cases where the screening is performed within 24 hours from the child’s birth, it is recommended to get the tests redone again within 1 or 2 weeks.
Newborn screening procedures are simple and do not require any special preparation on the part of the parents or the baby. Most screening tests will happen before the mother and the child are discharged and in complete supervision of professional doctors.
It is advised to nurse/feed the baby before and/or after the procedure and ensure that the baby is comfortable and warm while the procedure is being carried out.
At the time of the blood test, parents might choose to hold and comfort the child while the sample is drawn out of the child’s heel as this will be painful. For other tests, it is best to put the baby to sleep so that necessary instruments can be easily attached to the baby with ease.
As mentioned before, the only test which will hurt your baby is the blood test. The blood sample is drawn out by making a small prick in the heel of the baby which might cause brief discomfort to the child. The prick heals quickly and leaves no scar on the child.
Hospitals have trained professionals to handle the baby and give maximum comfort. The parents can also choose to handle their baby while the test is being carried out.
The screening process will also include tests for identification of genetic and inherited disorders such as Cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, sickle cell disease etc. Early detection of these genetic disorders will allow doctors to take precautionary measures to limit their effect on the child.
The test reports from the baby’s screening are usually sent out to the doctor within 2 – 3 weeks from the testing. Following are the usual test results from the screening process:
A negative or ‘in-range’ result means that all parameters tested for are in the normal range and there is no increased risk to the child. Normally, follow-up testing is not necessary for such situations.
A positive or ‘out-of-range’ report signifies that at least one of the test parameters are not within the normal range or failing. The parents are notified in case of a positive report. The positive report itself does not mean that the child is suffering from a disease, it is an indicator and requires further testing to diagnose the problem. Once the root cause of the problem is established, the doctor can suggest necessary corrective measures.
It is to be noted that the tests might not always be accurate and there is always a margin of error. There might also be rare cases where the report shows results as borderline. Such a situation may require further testing.
In case the testing report is positive, the doctors may suggest further test procedures to diagnose the problem. Once the disease/infection is identified, the doctor will suggest the necessary treatment or diet plan which will help the baby recover from the condition.
Irrespective of where the baby is born, it is very important to get the screening done. If you plan to deliver the baby at home or if your baby is born at home, you should book an appointment with your doctor/preferred hospital where this service is available. As the timing of the tests, especially blood test is very critical, it is ideal to have the appointment taken in advance on the basis of expected delivery date.
The necessary equipment for performing the tests might not be available in too many hospitals. Hence, it is important to identify and book a slot with the hospital in advance.
The chances of a severe disease or an adverse medical condition going unnoticed are high if the baby does not undergo the screening procedures soon after birth. Some of the medical conditions can also be life threatening and can result in abnormal growth or in some cases even premature death of the child.
Yes, these tests are the same and some doctors may use these words interchangeably.
Most hospitals will perform a screening test without having to ask for it specifically. However, the parents can ask to ensure that the procedure is being carried out in time.
In India, it is not mandatory to get a baby screened at birth. However, it is advised to get the procedure done even if it is not mandatory.
Newborn screening is the perfect way to detect any health issues the baby may be facing and provide immediate help if needed. Early intervention helps nip several problems in the bud and is advised for all babies.
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