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FOCUS ON…Newborn Screening Awareness Month with Brittany Solar, MD, FAAP
Many new parents might not realize that there is a standard battery of tests that all newborns receive shortly after they’re born. These newborn screenings, done within the first 24 to 48 hours, ensure your child is healthy. There is no charge for these screenings.
There are three main components to newborn screenings:
- Congenital heart disease screening, which checks oxygen saturation in the blood
- Hearing screening to ensure the normal hearing ability
- Blood test that screens for 56 genetic disorders
The blood test is an extensive panel that screens for metabolic disorders, immunodeficiencies, and hormonal disorders that if identified early can be treated or managed. The blood test is done with a slight prick to the bottom of the baby’s foot. Most newborns will not have an abnormality. However, if something abnormal is discovered, the screen can be repeated or further, and bloodwork can be drawn to confirm within the first few weeks of the baby’s life. If it is confirmed, the parents can be connected to a specialist right away.
Parents in New York State are fortunate that the screening program is so robust. Many states do not screen for as many disorders as New York State does. It’s a great program that parents really don’t know that much about. Though new parents may be overwhelmed at first, it’s important to hang onto the discharge paperwork provided by the hospital. This paperwork contains the yellow immunization card and a small pink slip attached with the number that the pediatrician will use to follow up on the newborn screen results. Parents should be sure to bring this information to follow-up appointments at Ryan Health.
While finding abnormalities is uncommon, there are a few diseases that occur more than others. These are often diseases that are in the family’s history. Thyroid disorders, which left untreated can lead to developmental delays and poor growth, are not unusual. If confirmed, parents are immediately connected with an endocrinologist and treatment can be initiated as soon as possible. Diseases such as sickle cell disease can predispose the child to frequent infections and pain crises. If this genetic disorder is identified parents are directed to a hematologist for treatment and early management.
If a baby is born at home instead of in the hospital Ryan Health can perform the screenings at one of our centers.
Newborn Screening Awareness Month is a good reminder that a healthy life starts early. More than four million babies are screened each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls newborn screenings among the 10 most important public health developments of the last 100 years.