Understanding newborn screening results

newborn-screening-picture1Before your baby leaves the hospital, he or she has some special tests called newborn screening. Newborn screening checks for serious but rare conditions at birth. It includes blood, hearing and heart screening.

A baby can be born with a health condition but may not show any signs of the problem at first. If these conditions are found early with newborn screening, they can often be treated. All babies in the United States get newborn screening. But each state decides which tests are required. You can find out which conditions are tested for by your state here.

In most cases after your baby has had the newborn screening tests done, you won’t hear anymore about them. Most newborn screening results are normal and if that is the case, families are not contacted again. But you can always ask your baby’s health care provider for the results.

In rare cases when your baby’s screening results aren’t normal, you will receive a phone call about 2-3 weeks following the screening. This call can come from either the state newborn screening program or your baby’s health care provider and it usually means that your baby simply needs more testing.

A “positive” or “out-of-range” result means that the baby’s screening did indicate that the baby may be at higher risk of having one or more of the conditions included on the newborn screening panel. This does not mean that the baby has been diagnosed with a medical condition. In fact, most babies who receive positive results ultimately do not have a condition. However newborn screening tests are not diagnostic and therefore follow-up testing must be done.

If you do get one of these phone calls, don’t panic. Remember that most babies with out-of-range newborn screens are healthy and have normal follow-up test results. But it is important to get the follow-up testing done right away. One of the reasons these conditions have been chosen to be a part of newborn screening is because there is some intervention that can be done to help the baby. So the sooner you find out the results of a diagnostic test, the sooner treatment can begin, if necessary, and that is better for your baby.

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