Your Newborn Benefits from Medical Screening and Vaccinations

It can be unsettling to have your newborn whisked away from you to undergo a series of tests, but understand they are in the best interest of your child. It can help to be mentally prepared for the procedures hospital staff will perform on your baby. Most take minutes and he’ll be back in your arms.

In the first minutes of your baby’s life, he’ll receive the Apgar evaluation. It is usually performed twice once at one minute of life and again after five minutes. His heart rate, breathing, reflexes, activity, muscle tone and skin color will be assessed. A score of seven or better is considered to be a healthy baby.

Sometimes a child needs a few minutes to adjust to the physical world. Ninety-eight percent of newborns score well after five minutes. Those with lower scores need careful monitoring and sometimes advanced care. The testing enables doctors to detect problems early so they can be addressed.

Many hospitals give babies eye drops to prevent problems resulting from the delivery process. Sexually transmitted infections, if present in the mother, can enter the baby’s eyes and cause blindness if left untreated. Many mothers are at a low risk for infection, but the procedure is for the child’s safety.

A shot of vitamin K is also given shortly after birth. Many infants are born with a low level of the vitamin. Vitamin K aids in blood clotting and it’s been shown that the treatment prevents dangerous bleeding in newborns

Hepatitis B vaccine is given before the child leaves the hospital. The shot is the first in a series of three injections. For children exposed to the disease, it prevents infection and liver damage.

Most babies are tested for hearing. Specially made earphones and microphones are used to test her reaction to sound. Hearing problems are not uncommon and early detection helps ensure the child receives the care and services she’ll need.

Tests are performed on newborns to screen the child for potentially harmful or fatal disorders that otherwise would go undetected. While testing varies from state to state almost all screen for around thirty potential issues.

In the early 1960s, Robert Guthrie, PhD, developed a blood test for phenylketonuria (PKU). People affected by this disorder lack an enzyme needed to process the amino acid phenylalanine. The substance is needed for normal growth and to properly process protein. If caught very early the baby can be placed on a special diet and the condition is manageable.

Guthrie’s test was the launching pad for newborn screening. The process is not regulated by the federal government and the requirements vary from state to state. Parents can decline the test if they desire. States usually decide what to test for by weighing the benefits against the costs. Factors include financial costs, treatment availability and risk of false positive results.

Parents should talk to their obstetrician or their baby’s future doctor. Health professionals can answer questions concerning what tests are currently performed at birth and if additional testing is required. If medical conditions run in the family, your doctor may want additional screening done.

Metabolic disorders or inborn errors of metabolism interfere with they body’s use of nutrients which are need to maintain healthy tissues and energy. These, along with other problems affecting hormones or the blood, are most commonly on the states’ screening tests.

Only a drop or two of blood is needed, most often taken from the baby’s heel, to complete the process. One commonly used method, the tandem mass spectrometry, requires one drop of blood to screen for over twenty disorders.

The screening saves lives as it give physicians a heads up and many disorders can be corrected and/or managed if caught early in the child’s life. It’s difficult for parents when notified of positive results but often, with proper treatment, their youngster can live a healthy and normal life.

Some of the procedures may be uncomfortable for the newborn and stressful for his parents.  But it’s all a part of giving him the best possible chance for a healthy and happy childhood.