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Newborn Screening Tests

Picture of a nurse examining a newborn

What are newborn screening tests?

Nearly all babies will have a simple blood test to check for disorders that are not immediately apparent after delivery. Some of these disorders are genetic, metabolic, blood, or hormone related. Each state in the United States requires screening tests, but the specific tests performed vary among the states. Some disorders are more common in some states, making testing more important.

A heel-prick is usually used to sample the baby's blood. The blood drops are collected in a small vial or on a special paper. The blood is then sent for testing. The baby's heel may have some redness at the pricked site, and some babies may have bruising, but this usually disappears in a few days.

Newborn screening tests may include:

Other tests screen for disorders including congenital toxoplasmosis and cystic fibrosis. Some states are using a new testing technique called tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) which can detect more than 30 disorders using a simple blood sample, including those involving protein and fatty acid metabolism.

Most screenings cannot be performed until babies have received at least 24 hours of breast milk or formula. Your baby may need follow-up testing if you are discharged before this time or the baby is unable to be tested before discharge.

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