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What Is Newborn Screening? Part 2
By Anna Eames and Rachael Salley
Why Do Babies Need Newborn Screening? While most babies are born healthy, there are about 5000 babies born each year with a condition can be identified through newborn screening. These babies usually appear perfectly healthy, have no family history of the condition, and may not have symptoms for years, even as the disorder causes permanent damage. Early treatment for these conditions can minimize harmful effects, and babies identified through newborn screening are usually able to have full, happy lives.
How Does A Baby Get Screened?
All 50 states have laws requiring newborn screening. Babies born in hospitals will be tested between 24 and 48 hours after birth, before they go home. Babies born in birth centers or at home should be tested by the attending midwife or doula, or should be taken to a hospital or clinic for the testing within a few days of birth. Exceptions to the law may be made in some states if parents have a religious objection, but it is strongly advised that such parents discuss newborn screening with a healthcare provider before making this decision. Newborn screening has the power to detect serious conditions before they can cause significant damage.
What If The Results Are Positive?
A negative, or “normal”, result indicates that no conditions were found. Make sure to ask your pediatrician about the newborn screening results if you have not been contacted about them. If the results come back positive, or “abnormal”, it means that an “out-of-range” result was found for one of the conditions in the screening panel. If this is the case, parents will be contacted immediately, and baby needs to be re-tested right away. It is essential to provide current and accurate contact information to the hospital so that the lab can contact you. An “out-of-range” result does not necessarily mean that the condition is present. It means that the baby is at high-risk for the condition, and follow-up testing is important to determine a diagnosis. If a positive result is found for the hearing screen, it means that the test could not determine whether or not the baby could hear properly, and follow-up with an audiologist is necessary. If low oxygen levels are detected through pulse oximetry, it is vital to follow-up with a specialist.