newborn blood tests: 5 things they can teach you
The moment babies are born, a number of screening tests are done before they are discharged from the hospital. The purpose of the screening is to check some disorders that do not have visible signs. Early detection enables the doctors to have a critical edge in treatment and management of the disorder before it causes serious harm to your child.
Screening of newborn babies started in the 1960s with a blood test that could identify a metabolic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU) which was developed by Robert Guthrie, MD, Ph.D. The screening of your newborn takes place in three parts. The first part is called the heel stick. This is where the heel of your newborn is pricked to obtain a small amount of blood sample. The second part is the pulse oximetry and finally, there is the hearing screen.
The blood test of a newborn is crucial. It will tell you whether your newborn has any of the conditions below:
- Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition that affects the hemoglobin cells that enable delivery of oxygen around the body. People with this condition experience severe pain and are anemic due to the slow movement of oxygen in the body.
- Congenital hypothyroidism (CH) is a condition in newborn infants where there is inadequate production of thyroid hormone. The condition could be inherited, resulting from a deficiency in iodine or due to a defect in the gland. The condition causes an inability to grow properly and even development of learning disabilities.
- Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that causes persistent lung infection and may cause an inability to breathe over time. The condition also affects the pancreas, intestines, kidney, and the liver.
- Phenylketonuria (PKU) is the main inherited metabolic disease checked. Metabolic diseases can cause developmental problems and in other cases can be life-threatening.
- Medium-Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency is a condition that affects the processing of various fats in the body to release energy. If not detected and managed early, it can cause severe problems like brain damage, coma or even death.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends testing for the first four conditions above. Allow your child to have a normal life by identifying any conditions early enough through newborn screening.