U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Menu

Talk with Your Doctor about Newborn Screening

The Basics

Newborn screenings are tests that check for diseases or disorders in newborn babies. Most tests are done before your baby leaves the hospital.

Newborn screenings can catch conditions early, when they may be easier to treat. With a simple blood test, doctors can tell whether or not your baby has certain diseases or disorders.

Talk about newborn screening with your doctor or midwife before your baby is born. This can help you make sure your baby grows up healthy.

What tests will my baby need?
Most states require newborn screening. But the number and types of tests are different in each state. Depending on your family health history, you may want to ask for extra tests.

Here are some conditions that can be found early with newborn screening tests.

Thyroid disorder
The thyroid is a gland in the neck that makes hormones. It’s important to find and treat thyroid disorder early to prevent problems with growth and development.

PKU (Phenylketonuria)
Babies with PKU can’t process certain foods and must be fed special formula. PKU can cause intellectual disability (mental skills that are below average) if it’s not treated early.

Sickle cell disease
Sickle cell disease is a serious blood disorder. It can be watched and treated if it’s found early.

Hearing loss
Finding out early if your baby has hearing loss can prevent problems with speech and language. If your hospital doesn’t test for hearing loss, make sure to have your baby’s hearing checked within the first month.

How are the tests done?
Most newborn screening tests use a few drops of blood taken from the heel of your baby’s foot. The same sample of blood can be used to test for many different diseases. These tests don’t cause any harm or risk to your baby.

A hearing test uses a small microphone or earphone to check how your baby responds to sounds.

For more information, check out these frequently asked questions about newborn screening.

Take Action!

Take Action!

If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor about newborn screening before your baby is born.

Find out which tests your hospital offers.
Ask your doctor or midwife about newborn screening. Find out which screening tests are offered at the hospital where your baby will be born.

If you don’t give birth at a hospital, your baby still needs to get screened. Take your baby to a hospital or clinic to get checked within a few days of birth.

What about cost?
Some newborn screening tests are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get your baby screened at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you don’t have insurance, you can still get medical care for yourself and your baby. Call one of the toll-free phone numbers below to connect with the health department in your area. Ask about free care.

  • For information in English, call 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229).
  • For information in Spanish, call 1-800-504-7081.

Follow up.
Ask the doctor when you will get your baby’s test results. Some tests may need to be repeated after 1 or 2 weeks, especially if you leave the hospital before your baby is 24 hours old. Make a plan with your doctor.

Schedule well-baby checkups.
Most babies have their first checkup 2 to 3 days after coming home from the hospital. A well-baby visit is when you take your baby to the doctor for a full checkup. This is different from other visits for sickness or injury.

Find out why well-baby visits are an important part of keeping your child healthy.

Start building your child’s health record now.
Keep track of your baby’s test results and shots. Put medical information in a safe place – you will need it for child care, school, and other activities.

Your family’s health history is an important part of your baby’s health record. Use this family health history tool to keep track of your family’s health. Keep a copy with your baby’s other health information.

Expand to Full Page