Newborn Screening: About Your Child's Test

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What is it?

Screening tests help your doctor look for a certain disease or condition before any symptoms appear. All states require newborn screening, although the tests required vary from state to state. They may include:

  • Bilirubin test (to test for jaundice).
  • Congenital heart disease test.
  • Galactosemia test.
  • Hearing test.
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU) screen.
  • Sickle cell disease test.
  • Thyroid hormone tests (for thyroid problems that are present at birth).

Why is this test done?

This test is done to find out whether your baby has certain diseases that could eventually cause problems. When discovered early, these diseases can be treated to improve the child's health.

How can you prepare for the test?

In general, you don't need to prepare your baby for this test.

How is the test done?

A heel stick is used to get a blood sample from a baby. The baby's heel is poked, and several drops of blood are collected. Your baby may have a tiny bruise where the heel was poked.

Small soft sensors are placed on your baby's hand and foot to check oxygen in the blood.

Soft headphones are used on or near the baby's ears. Tones or clicks are used to test for a hearing response. Sometimes small electrodes are placed on the baby's head.

What do the results of the test mean?

If the test result is abnormal, remember that this is only a screening test. An abnormal result only means that further testing is needed.

How long does the test take?

The test will take a few minutes.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have questions.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines your child takes. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.