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September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month

There are a number of potentially devastating diseases that can be present in a newborn but hidden at the time of birth. These diseases, if undetected by newborn screening, have the potential to cause medical problems as the baby grows, and severely alter a life that could have otherwise been normal.

The Screening Process

As far as babies are concerned, the newborn screening process is very simple. A healthcare worker simply draws a few drops of blood by pricking the infant’s heel, usually within 24 to 48 hours of birth. That blood is then sent off to a certified newborn screening lab which analyzes it for a number of disorders including metabolic disorders, hormonal issues, blood disorders, and more.

Amazingly, these high-tech labs need only a small sample from an infant in order to run their tests. Once the screening is completed, the results are sent either to the child’s pediatrician and may also be sent to the local specialty care center.

A “normal” result indicates that the infant is not likely to be affected by any of the rare diseases screened for by the lab.

An “abnormal” results means that there is an increased risk that the child might have the condition in question. At that point, further testing is required to confirm whether or not there really is a disease present. If the confirmation tests are positive, follow-up and treatment will begin immediately.

In addition to the blood tests, most states screen for hearing loss before the baby leaves the hospital. If this is not something done in your state, you should still have your baby tested as early as possible. Hearing issues can be isolated, just affecting the ears, or they can be part of more complex conditions. Either way, parents will not know if they don’t have their child’s hearing tested.

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