As I told you a few weeks ago, newborn screening saves lives. My experience with newborn screening has been slightly different than most, because Sophia was a NICU baby.
Pulse Oximetry Testing:
Because Sophia arrived nearly 5 weeks early, she had to be evaluated in the nursery for 5 hours after birth. In the nursery, she was hooked up to a pulse ox machine (non-invasive, quick, and painless) and it showed a concerning low blood oxygen level. She was immediately hooked up to oxygen and transferred to the Level 3 NICU floor for care where they concluded that her respiratory center was a bit underdeveloped.
While the pulse oximetry test was not used in the typical newborn screening sense – to screen for CHDs – it was a very important tool in measuring how sick my baby was. Sophia looked healthy to the untrained eye and it was rather mind blowing to me that a small pulse ox machine could tell us so much otherwise in just minutes.
Bottom line: Pulse oximetry testing takes minutes but can possibly save you from a whole world of heartache. Advocate for your baby, demand pulse ox screening after your baby is 24 hours old and before leaving the hospital.
A screening test that is commonly performed on newborn babies is the blood/heel stick test. This test screens for a whole slew of disorders, which can vary by state, and is another quick test that can tell so much.
Sophia had the heel stick test performed 3 times during her hospital stay. The first test results came in and showed abnormal numbers which could indicate Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. Again, seemingly healthy baby with abnormal test results. The doctors reassured us that just because the numbers came back to indicate CAH, doesn’t necessarily mean that Sophia has the condition. They repeated the heel stick twice more before Sophia was discharge and luckily everything came back normal.
Bottom line: The blood test (heel stick) screens for disorders that are not necessarily recognizable on the outside. Had Sophia had CAH, we would have never known if it weren’t for the heel stick. It’s a very important screening tool that uses small samples of blood to screen for SO much, as early detection in newborns is key in treating many disorders.
The newborn hearing test was performed right at Sophia’s bedside, without even waking her up. There are 2 types of hearing tests used in newborn screening:
- Otoacoustic emissions (OAE): During an OAE test, a small earphone is placed into a baby’s ear. A sound is emitted, and the otoacoustic emission that the ear produces (like an echo) is measured.
- Auditory brain stem response (ABR): During an ABR test, headphones are placed over a baby’s ears, and electrodes are placed on the baby’s head. Sounds are played into the earphones, and the electrodes measure the brain’s response.
The ABR test is recommended for preemie / NICU babies as it may detect certain types of hearing loss not found by the OAE test alone.
The hearing test was especially important for Sophia because premature birth is a risk factor for hearing loss. Thankfully, my sweet baby was not even fazed by the 5 minute test and even got a certificate for passing
Bottom line: The newborn hearing screening test is quick and painless. Results are available right away so that if your newborn happens to fail the hearing test, you can be proactive about the next steps to take.
Visit Baby’s First Test for more in-depth information on newborn screening and what to expect in your state. Remember, early detection is key when it comes to treating disorders that are detected via newborn screening. Talk with your doctor, add it to your birth plan, educate and advocate for yourself, and start your baby off on the right foot.
Planning a birth outside of a hospital? It’s up to you to take the initiative to make sure your newborn is screened. Baby Dickey shares her experience with newborn screening after a homebirth.
Talk to the expecting women in your life about newborn screening, Cora’s Story and Baby’s First Test. A simple conversation could save a baby’s life. You can also show your support by “liking” Baby’s First Test and Cora’s Story on Facebook!
Disclosure: I am a Baby’s First Test Blogger Ambassador and am supported by the Baby’s First Test project. Baby’s First Test is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Health Resource and Service Administration (HRSA), Grant no. U36MC16509, Quality Assessment of the Newborn Screening System.