What Tests Will My Baby Get in the Hospital?

Newborns are tested for a host of medical conditions.

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For the parents of newborns, the number of tests that a perfectly healthy baby undergoes in her first few days of life can seem endless. These tests are important to ensure your new bundle of joy is developing as expected, and that there are no medical conditions that could require treatment. 

Here's the tests new parents should expect in the first 24 hours of a baby's life.

Newborn Screening Test

The newborn screening test, called the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP), is done when your baby turns 24 hours old and is usually performed in the nursery at the hospital.

 The nurse will swab your baby's heel, then prick the heel and blot five small blood samples on a testing paper. The samples are sent to your state's screening facility and tested for more than two dozen different diseases, most of which are very rare.

Three conditions were recently added to the newborn screening panel, making it even more helpful for diagnosing babies with rare conditions even earlier. The new screenings will now detect Pompe disease, mucopolysaccharidosis type I (MPS I, Hurler syndrome) and X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD).

You will also be asked if you'd like to donate any of your baby's sample for future research, as sometimes the test doesn't need all five blood samples and there may be some left over. You can definitely decline donating the samples and you'll have to sign your consent either way. In the unlikely event that your baby tests positive for any disorder that the newborn screening test picks up, your baby's doctor will let you know.

Hearing Test for Newborns

Sometime in the first day after your baby is born, he or she will also have a hearing test done. Typically, this test will wait until at least six hours after birth, as it's common that the process of birth leaves some residue in the baby's ears that can interfere with the hearing screen.

Waiting allows the ear canals to clear out a bit more.

This test is very simple and completely painless to your baby. the nurse places some special headphones on the baby's ears that release sound and measure the baby's response to the sounds. If the test detects a low response, the hearing screen will typically be repeated. If your baby fails the hearing screen again, another repeat will be scheduled for approximately one week after you leave the hospital and if your baby fails that repeat, you will be referred to a hearing specialist.

Bilirubin Test

At one day old, your baby will have her bilirubin levels tested. This test, which can help detect liver abnormalities, only takes seconds and is usually done in conjunction with the other tests. Through a monitor that is placed on the forehead, the baby's bilirubin level is displayed. Your baby's doctor and nursing staff will use that number to determine if your baby is at risk for jaundice.

Blood Sugar Test 

If your newborn is Large for Gestational Age (LGA), which is just a fancy term for having a baby that's a bit bigger than most babies his or her age, or Small for Gestational Age (SGA) the hospital will follow protocol to have his blood sugar tested.

Babies that are born to moms with gestational diabetes are often LGA, for example.

Babies who are either larger or smaller than average may have difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels on their own, which can affect many parts of a baby's system, especially their temperature. If your baby has low blood sugar, you will more than likely to encouraged to feed your baby to help stabilize his blood sugar and keep his body temperature warm and cozy next to you.

Sources:

Freedenberg, D. & Berry, S.A. (2016, June 6). Panel recommends screening newborns for 3 additional conditions. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved from http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/06/08/Genetics060816

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