Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs. This leads to breathing difficulties, tiredness, lung infections and a shortened life expectancy. While treatment for CF continues to improve, healthy lifestyle choices can help maintain a good quality of life.…
Newborn baby blood test
What is a newborn baby blood test?
A newborn baby blood test, also known as a 'heel prick test' or 'blood spot test', is available to all newborns shortly after their birth. It is a simple test that is done by taking a few drops of blood from the newborn baby's heel.
The blood sample is then analyzed in the laboratory for signs of a number of rare but serious genetic conditions. If these conditions are recognized at this early stage, they can be treated and/or managed and the harm they cause can be minimized.
A nurse or midwife will perform the test within the first 72 hours after birth - normally before you leave the hospital with your new baby, or before the midwife leaves your home after a home birth.
The test takes a few seconds. The nurse will clean the heel of your baby, prick it using a special device and collect a few drops of blood onto a special card. The prick site is then covered and the test is over. The card is sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Your baby will probably be distressed by the pricking, but will calm down quickly. Holding your baby, making skin-to-skin contact or breastfeeding will help your baby (and you) calm down faster.
As a parent, you may ask to decline the test if you choose.
Newborn baby blood tests were first introduced in the 1960s for phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare metabolic disorder. Since then, the list of conditions tested for has expanded considerably and can now include dozens of conditions, with new ones added from time to time.
The specific list of conditions varies by nation (and often by state). The main conditions tested for include:
After the test
In most countries, you will not be contacted if the test results indicate that all is well. In some cases, you will be contacted and asked to give another blood sample for further testing. It is important to understand that further testing does not mean there is anything wrong with your baby. In many cases, the repeat test is only required to clear up any doubt about the test results, if the sample was contaminated, or to help the lab improve its procedures.
In the rare case that your baby is found to have one of the conditions tested for, you will be notified immediately. You will then be referred to a specialist who will explain the implications of the condition for your baby and your family.
All samples and test results are stored securely for a period of time that varies by country. In some countries, the samples are destroyed after a few months or years; in others they are stored indefinitely.
Newborn baby blood test samples are also often used for research purposes. The samples are 'de-identified', meaning that the sample cannot be linked back to your baby and any research performed on the sample will not affect your baby in any way. Research is focused on analysis methods and does not involve ethically controversial fields, such as cloning or stem-cell research.
You may, if you wish, ask for your baby's test sample not to be used for research purposes.
- CDC - Newborn Screening. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/newbornscreening/
- Choices N.H.S. (2014 May 14). Newborn screening - Live Well - NHS Choices. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Screening/Pages/Newbornscreening.aspx
- Health c=AU; st=Victoria; o=State G. of V. ou1=Department of. Newborn screening: Population Screening - Department of Health Victoria Australia. guidelines. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://www.health.vic.gov.au/screening/newborn.htm
- Newborn screening. Better Health Channel. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Newborn_screening
- Newborn screening tests: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007257.htm
- Newborn Screening: Tests to protect your baby (English) - file. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://www.mhcs.health.nsw.gov.au /publicationsandresources/pdf/publication-pdfs/6345/doh-6345-eng.pdf/at_download/file
- Victorian Clinical Genetics Services (VCGS) - Pathology Services - Home ?» Newborn Screening. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://www.vcgs.org.au/pathology/sections/NewbornScreening/?docid=aa3a4d81-d44b-42ff-8340-99360112c7a7
- What are the types of genetic tests? (2014 July 28). Genetics Home Reference. Accessed 31 July 2014 from http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/testing/uses
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is the newborn baby blood test?
A newborn baby blood test, also known as a 'heel prick test' or 'blood spot test', is offered to all newborns shortly after their birth. It is a simple test that is done by taking a few drops of blood from the newborn baby's heel.
When is the newborn baby blood test performed?
A nurse or midwife will perform the newborn baby blood test within the first 72 hours after birth - normally before you leave the hospital with your new baby, or before the midwife leaves your home after a home birth.
Are newborn baby blood tests performed for home births?
Newborn baby blood tests are performed for home births.
What is the purpose of the newborn baby blood test?
Newborn baby blood tests are carried out to test for: phenylketonuria, hypothyroidism, and cystic fibrosis.
How is the newborn baby blood test performed?
to perform a newborn baby blood test, a nurse cleans the heel of your baby, pricks it with a special device and collects a few drops of blood onto a special card. The prick site is then covered.
What happens after the newborn baby blood test?
After the newborn baby blood test, the blood sample is sent to the laboratory, where it will be analyzed for the presence of any genetic conditions, such as phenylketonuria, hypothyroidism and cystic fibrosis.
What happens if the result of a newborn baby blood test is positive?
If the results of a newborn baby blood test are positive, you will be contacted and asked to give another blood sample for further testing. It is important to understand that further testing does not mean there is …
Is the newborn baby blood test dangerous?
The newborn baby blood test is very safe. As with all blood tests, there is a small chance of the prick site becoming infected if it is not cleaned properly.
Can I refuse to have the test?
It is your right to refuse for your baby to be tested. However, it is highly recommended that every newborn has the test.