Parents place their children’s welfare and health first. By following the advice of their doctors, parents of newborns can keep their babies safe and healthy. But certain medical issues may not appear when the baby is born and create problems later.
A health examination known as “neonatal screening” can identify rare and serious health issues in infants. Parents are notified immediately if such symptoms are spotted.
What do you need to know about newborn screening?
Newborn screening is a series of tests that are done on infants that are 1- 2 days old. This usually occurs before they are released from the nursing home. It’s done to rule out any serious conditions that may not have been present at birth. These tests can detect metabolic and genetic abnormalities, problems in hearing, specific heart conditions, and certain other issues which could hinder their development.
Babies born to parents with health issues may not show symptoms in their first year. The baby could develop serious complications later if there are underlying problems that the parents are unaware of and have not received timely treatment. Because of this, a newborn baby test should be attached to a great deal of importance. It’s important to detect these conditions early so that babies can start treatment and avoid complications later.
Parents should speak to a healthcare provider regarding this if they delivered the baby at home. Some babies may need an additional test a week or two later.
How is the screening done?
There are three parts to the process of newborn screening—
- The first is a blood test and is used to check for any rare but very serious health issues in newborns. To collect blood samples, the doctor usually pokes the baby’s heel and then sends the collected blood for testing to a lab. The newborn’s first blood sample is usually taken between five and seven days of age.
- The second is a hearing test which again has two parts. These tests are for finding out whether there are any hearing problems in a newborn. Both are fast, safe, and easy to perform, as they are done when the baby is sleeping.
- One of the hearing tests is known as the Auditory Brain Stem Response Test (ABR). It’s for evaluating how the brain responds to sounds. A tiny earphone is put inside the ear, and sound is played. It is then checked if the baby’s brain is responding to the stimulus correctly.
- The other hearing test is referred to as the Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test. It’s used to determine if the infant’s ears are responsive to sound. A small microphone and an earphone are put inside the ear. After which, some sound is played. It is possible that the baby has a hearing loss if the microphone fails to record echoes produced in the canal of the ear.
- The third is known as the non-invasive Pulse Oximetry Test, which measures the amount of oxygen in an infant’s blood. Lower levels may be seen in babies with heart problems. In the test, the health professional places a safe sensor on the skin of the baby, which records the oxygen level. This test is also used to detect heart diseases in a baby.
What are some of the most important benefits of newborn screening?
The primary benefits of newborn screening include early treatment, proper diagnosis, management, and monitoring of rare or serious diseases. If newborns aren’t screened at an early stage, they could suffer developmental delays, respiratory problems, brain damage, or even death. Here are some common health issues newborn screening tests are used to diagnose—
- Metabolic diseases: Babies born with a disorder linked to the metabolism of organic acids have trouble digesting food properly. This can lead to developmental delays, breathing difficulties, and neurological issues.
- Hormonal issues: There are hormone-producing glands in the body. Hormone disorders are caused by excessive or inadequate hormone production in these glands. If not treated within 2 weeks after birth, these issues can lead to developmental and growth problems.
- Haemoglobin problems: These conditions involve the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body and impact them negatively. The most common problems linked to haemoglobin that are screened include Beta-Thalassemia, Haemoglobin SC Disease, and Sickle cell disease.
- Others: Newborn screening may also be used to diagnose serious or rare health issues like Galactosemia, Cystic Fibrosis, etc.
The newborn test should be taken as a preventive measure—
Babies with potentially severe health issues look normal in the beginning. Parents should have their babies screened at birth to ensure that they are aware of any potential health issues. It is possible to prevent serious diseases and help them grow normally by getting them prompt treatment.
Have a consultation with your doctor before you give birth, and they will explain the importance of this test to you.