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Screening tests for your newborn baby

When your baby is born, he or she is entitled to a range of routine health checks and tests. These include:

  • a physical examination
  • a hearing test
  • a blood test (taken from the baby's heel)

Most babies are healthy and won't have any of the conditions or problems that the screening tests are looking for. But for those babies that do have a health problem, the benefits of screening can be enormous. Early treatment can improve the baby's health and prevent severe disability or even death.

The checks and tests are quick and won't harm your baby. We will need your consent will be required for your baby to have the checks and tests.

Physical examination of the newborn and those aged six to eight weeks

After birth all babies are examined by the midwife. A more detailed physical examination of your baby will be undertaken by a specialist midwife or by a paediatrician within 6 to 72 hours of birth and again at 6 to 8 weeks old (usually by the GP). As well as being a top-to-toe physical check, these examinations help identify those babies who may have a problem with their eyes, heart, hips and in boys, testicles. The GP should examine the baby between 6-8 weeks after birth.

Read more about what's involved in NHS Newborn Physical Examinations.

Newborn hearing screening

A very small number of babies are born with hearing loss. Your baby will be given a quick and simple test to check their hearing. Identifying hearing loss early will ensure that babies and parents can get the support they need and help the development of the child's language and social skills.

Read more about NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Tests.

Newborn blood spot screening (heel prick test)

When your baby is between 5 and 8 days old, the newborn bloodspot screening test will be offered to your baby. This involves taking a sample of blood from their heel.  All babies are tested for:

  • Phenylketonuria (PKU) –  an inherited condition where they cannot process a substance called phenylalanine and they are treated early through a special diet.
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism – babies with this condition do not have enough of the hormone Thyoxine, which is essential for growth. Early treatment with thyroxine tablets can prevent serious disability.
  • Sickle Cell Disease – this is an inherited condition which affects the red blood cells. If a baby has this condition they may experience extreme pain, serious infections which can lead to damage to various organs of the body. Early treatment can  reduce the risk of serious illness.
  • Cystic Fibrosis – this is an inherited condition which affects the digestion and lungs. Babies may not gain weight very well and have chest infections frequently. Early treatment is with a high-energy diet, medication and physiotherapy.
  • MCADD (Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency) – this is an inherited condition in which babies have problems breaking down fats to make energy for the body, which can be very serious for the baby. Once diagnosed, special attention needs to be given to the baby’s diet – ensuring that they are fed regularly.

Read more about the NHS Blood Spot Test.


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