Newborn screenings find and treat problems early to keep babies healthy

October 02, 2015 | by Victoria Uribe, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

Every mom wants her baby to be healthy. While most babies are born healthy, some have serious medical conditions, often in families with no previous history. All states require babies to be screened at birth, and for good reason.

Recognized as an essential preventative health measure, newborn screenings check for diseases or disorders at birth. These tests allow doctors to find problems and start treatments early to protect your baby’s health. The tests don't cause any harm or risk to your baby and all are completed before you leave the hospital.

The number and types of screening tests varies from state to state. Newborn screenings check for many different diseases, disorders, hormonal issues and more, including:

  • Hypothyroid disorder – This disorder can cause problems with growth and development. It is important to treat early to prevent complications.
  • PKU (phenylketonuria) – In this inherited disorder, babies can’t process certain foods. If it’s not treated early, PKU can cause problems with the central nervous system, brain damage and intellectual disability. When found early, children are able to receive treatment and develop normally.
  • Sickle cell disease – This is a serious blood disorder that should be treated early.
  • Hearing loss - Detecting hearing loss early is important as there are treatments that may improve hearing and allow normal speech.
  • Heart defects - Some abnormalities of the heart can be detected and treated early before complications arise.

Each of these conditions has something in common. If identified early, each can be treated before causing potentially devastating diseases and medical problems. In fact, newborn screenings detect a treatable condition in about one in every 300 babies born each year in the United States. Most babies with conditions that are identified at birth and treated early are able to grow up healthy with normal development.

As far as your baby is concerned, the newborn screening process is simple. Most tests use a few drops of blood taken from the heel of your baby's foot when he or she is 24-48 hours old. The tests used to screen for hearing loss in babies are quick (5-10 minutes), safe and comfortable, and are often performed while your baby is asleep. Testing for heart defects is painless and takes just a few minutes using a small sensor placed on your baby's hand and foot.

All in all, newborn screening can save your child's life and prevent serious complications.

Learn more about our Newborn Development Follow-up Clinic.

Learn more about newborn screenings.

Victoria Uribe, MD is a pediatrician at Elmhurst Clinic.

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