When babies are born, tests are run in their first days of life to see if they have certain disorders and conditions. Those tests are newborn screenings that are run after they’re 24 hours old and before they’re discharged from the hospital.
Dr. Patience Ugwi, a pediatrician at Lawton Community Health Clinic East, said there are three parts to the newborn screening. There’s the blood test, hearing test, and pulse oximetry.
“So the blood test tests for metabolic and genetic conditions that are present when a child is born, but the child is asymptomatic,” she said.
They take the blood from the baby’s heel and then send it off to be tested. Dr. Ugwi said if they find a baby has a condition, they’ll treat it as soon as they can.
“If a baby has congenital hypothyroidism, the baby develops irreversible intellectual disabilities that has long term effects,” Dr. Ugwi said. “So, these are really serious diseases that can actually cause death, and there’s actually something that can be done about them. I think it’s really, really important to get the screening done.”
The second test, the hearing test, is something health officials don’t have to send off. They can tell if the newborn has hearing problems immediately. And finally, they do the pulse oximetry test. It’s a sensor that’s placed on the baby’s skin to check the oxygen level in the blood.
“That will tell us if the baby is at risk for some critical congenital heart conditions,” she said.
Dr. Ugwi said these tests are important because the conditions usually don’t present any symptoms at birth, and the babies look healthy even if they aren’t.
“They are very serious,” Dr. Ugwi said. “And they are life-threatening, but most importantly, we can do something about them, so if we get the results and know that this baby is at high risk of this disease or this baby screen abnormally, then we can move forward and do a diagnostic test and treat.”
Dr. Ugwi said even if a baby screens abnormally, that doesn’t mean the baby has a condition. It just means more testing is needed. She said no news is good news, but it’s good to follow up with your baby’s pediatrician just to make sure none of the tests came back abnormally.