As a new parent, you may have lots of questions because you want to do everything you can to keep your baby safe and healthy. An important first step is to make sure your baby has all parts of the newborn screening testing completed. Early detection and treatment of health issues can help your baby grow up healthier.
What is Newborn Screening?
Newborn Screening is made up of three separate parts:
- Blood spot screening tests your baby’s blood for different conditions.
- Pulse oximetry screening checks for several kinds of abnormalities with the baby’s heart.
- Hearing screening checks to see if your baby has varying hearing levels.
Why does my baby need Newborn Screening tests?
All babies are tested because even babies who look healthy may have a health problem.
If these problems are found early, treatment can begin and may be able to prevent serious complications.
When is Newborn Screening completed?
For well-babies, all parts of newborn screening are completed after your baby is 24 hours of age and will be completed before being discharged home from the hospital. If you deliver outside of a hospital setting, your birth provider will either complete the testing or make arrangements for testing 1-2 days after your baby is born.
Babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have different screening requirements and schedules. Consult with your hospital caregivers if your baby is in the NICU.
How will my baby be tested?
Blood Spot: A few drops of blood will be taken from the heel and collected on a special filter paper. The sample will be sent to the Bureau of Public Health Laboratory in Jacksonville. Results will take a few days before it is available for the baby’s doctor.
Pulse Oximetry: A small sensor which measures oxygen levels in blood will be placed on the baby’s right hand and one of the feet. This test is painless and is completed quickly.
Hearing: There are two types of hearing screening equipment, both of which place sensors on the baby’s head to measure the response to auditory stimuli. This test is painless and is completed while the baby is sleeping.
What can I do to help?
- Select a doctor for your baby before he/she is born.
- Schedule your baby’s first doctor visit before you leave the birth facility.
- Make sure your birth facility and your baby’s doctor have your correct address and phone number(s).
How will I get the results of the tests?
- Your baby’s doctor will have the results.
- Results of the pulse oximetry and hearing screenings are available right away.
- Ask about your baby’s newborn screening results when you see your baby’s doctor.
- Results of the blood spot testing are usually available to your baby’s doctor within 2-3 days of receipt at the Bureau of Public Health Laboratory in Jacksonville.
Why do some babies need to have a repeat screening or additional testing?
- There was not enough blood collected to complete the screening.
- There was a problem with the blood sample.
- The blood sample was collected prior to 24 hours of age.
- The screening showed a possible health issue with a result outside of the normal range.
You will be contacted if your baby needs to have additional testing. You may be contacted by your baby’s doctor, a nurse from Florida’s Newborn Screening Follow-up Program, or a specialist from one of the Program’s referral center partners.
If your baby needs to have the screening repeated or additional diagnostic testing completed, it should be done right away.
What will my baby’s blood be screened for?
Florida screens for more than 55 conditions including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, hypothyroidism, phenylketonuria, and others. For the full list of conditions screened in Florida, as well as detailed information about each, please visit the Conditions page of this website.
These include conditions that affect the way the body uses different parts of food. Metabolic conditions may require specialized diets or medication to prevent build-up of substances that can become harmful to the body.
These conditions are caused by too much or too little of certain hormones in the body. These conditions are treated with medications to prevent serious complications in mental and physical development.
Hemoglobin conditions occur when there is problem with the way blood cells are formed. Early detection allows for better management of care and a possible reduction of complications.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
CF is a condition that causes progressive lung disease with possible involvement of other organs. Early detection allows for better management of care and a possible reduction of complications.
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)
SCID is a condition which affects the immune system, leaving little to no protection against infections. SCID may be treated with a bone marrow transplant, if appropriate.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
SMA is a condition that causes muscle weakness and atrophy. Early detection allows for newly developed treatment options and a possible reduction of complications.
What is pulse oximetry screening looking for?
Pulse oximetry screening is a way to screen for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). CCHDs are problems with the structure of the heart that are present at birth. Pulse oximetry is helpful in detecting some, but not all, CCHDs before symptoms appear.
What is hearing screening for?
Hearing screening may detect possible varying hearing levels. Different hearing levels or complete hearing loss may affect your baby’s ability to learn language skills and result in learning delays. If this condition is found early, there are many ways your baby may be helped.
What about my baby’s eyes?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that an eye evaluation including a red-reflex test be completed as part of well-child check-ups. While not a part of newborn screening, your baby should have this eye exam completed before discharge from care after birth.
Does my baby have to be screened?
Florida’s Newborn Screening Program is an opt-out program, meaning it is part of the standard of care for all newborns born in the state. As with any medical procedure, you have the right to refuse. Refusal is not encouraged as early detection in many of the conditions on Florida’s screening panel need to be found in the first few days of life to prevent poor outcomes.
Should you refuse any portion of the screening, you will be asked to sign a refusal of treatment form to be included in your baby’s medical record.
What happens to my baby’s blood spots?
After the dried blood spots have been used to screen for all conditions, the residual sample will be stored for six months, after which it will be destroyed. Blood spots are never used for research purposes. Results of newborn screening and follow-up testing are maintained by the Florida Department of Health for at least 7 years.
Still have questions? Call the Florida Newborn Screening Follow-up Program at (850) 245-4201 or (866) 804-9166.