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Heel prick test

Newborns are offered a heel prick test (also known as the blood spot test).

Newborn blood spot screening involves taking a blood sample to find out if your baby has one of nine rare but serious health conditions.

It is rare for babies to have any of the conditions but for the few who do, the benefits of screening are huge.

Early treatment can improve their health, and prevent severe disability or even death.

What to expect from a heel prick test

A health professional will prick your baby’s heel and collect four drops of blood onto a piece of card. Usually this will be when your baby is 5 days old.

Conditions the heel prick test screens for

The heel prick test screens for the following nine rare but serious conditions:

  • sickle cell disease

  • cystic fibrosis

  • congenital hypothyroidism

  • inherited metabolic diseases:

    • phenylketonuria (PKU)

    • medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD)

    • maple syrup urine disease (MSUD)

    • isovaleric acidaemia

    • glutaric aciduria type 1 (GA1)

    • homocystinuria (pyridoxine unresponsive) (HCU)

It's not compulsory to have the heel prick test, but it is strongly recommended as some of these conditions are treatable.

Heel prick test on the NHS website

Newborn hearing screening test

The newborn hearing screening test helps identify babies who have permanent hearing loss as early as possible. Permanent hearing loss can significantly affect babies development so finding out early can give babies a better chance of developing language, speech and communication skills.

How and when the hearing screening test is done

The test is called the automated otoacoustic emission (AOAE) test. 

A small soft-tipped earpiece is placed on your baby’s ears and gentle clicking sounds are played.

There may not be a clear response from the first test. This happens a lot with babies and doesn’t always mean your baby has permanent hearing loss. It could mean:

  • your baby was unsettled when the test was done
  • there was background noise
  • your baby has fluid or a temporary blockage in their ear

If this is the case a second test will be offered. This may be the same as the first test, or another type called the automated auditory brainstem response (AABR) test.

The AABR test involves placing 3 small sensors on your baby's head and neck. Soft headphones are placed over your baby's ears and gentle clicking sounds are played. This test takes between 5 and 15 minutes.

Its highly recommended for your newborn to have the newborn hearing test, but it is not compulsory. If you decide not to have the screening test you’ll be given checklists to help you check on your baby’s hearing as they grow older.

Newborn hearing screening test on the NHS website

Newborn physical examination

A thorough physical examination for your baby will be offered to you within 72 hours of giving birth.

The examination includes screening tests to find out if your baby has any problems with their eyes, heart, hips and, in boys, the testicles (testes).

How the newborn physical examination is done

Your baby will need to be undressed for part of the examination. 

During the examination, the health care professional will:

  • ask you questions about how your baby is feeding, how alert they are and about their general wellbeing
  • look into your baby’s eyes with a special torch to check how their eyes look and move
  • listen to your baby’s heart to check their heart sounds
  • examine their hips to check the joints
  • examine baby boys to see if their testicles have descended into the scrotum

The aim of the examination is to identify any of the problems early so treatment can be started as soon as possible. It's strongly recommended for your baby, but not compulsory.

Newborn physical examination on the NHS website

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