Newborn Screening Tests
Your baby will be offered screening for a number of disorders and conditions before you leave the hospital. Screening is not mandatory but is considered the standard of care for every baby and is highly recommended. In some cases, your baby may require additional testing. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions or need further information about any of the following newborn screens or tests to make an informed decision.
It is very important to find out if your baby has hearing loss. Undetected hearing loss can cause delays in your baby's speech development. This can lead to behavioural and emotional problems and, later on, to problems in school. The sooner hearing loss is identified, the better. Finding out early means that your child can get the help they need right away. This gives them the same chance to develop language skills as hearing children. Most newborns are automatically screened for hearing loss while in the hospital. If, for some reason, your baby's hearing wasn't tested before you went home from the hospital, you can contact the Southwest Region Infant Hearing Program location for information about setting up an appointment in the community. Learn more about Newborn Hearing Screening →
Bilirubin is the by-product of red blood cell break down after birth and can lead to jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes). Jaundice is very common in newborn babies but too much bilirubin can be harmful. Your baby will be screened to determine their bilirubin level before you leave the hospital. A tool is placed on your baby's forehead. The meter shines a special light on your baby's skin and gives a reading of the bilirubin level. Based on the results of this test, you will be advised if your baby needs further follow-up. Most babies clear their bilirubin on their own without treatment, but some need a little help from a treatment called phototherapy. This involves placing your baby under a special light. The light is absorbed by your baby's skin and helps to break down the bilirubin in their blood so that levels return to normal.
The Newborn Screening program screens your baby's risk for a number of rare metabolic and blood disorders that can cause developmental disability, illness and even death if not treated. These disorders are not visually obvious in the newborn period. Early detection allows further testing, diagnosis, and treatment, which is more effective than follow-up after symptoms are seen. The test involves taking a small sample of blood from your baby’s heel between 24 and 72 hours of age (see the video below to learn how to reduce your infant's pain during newborn blood tests). This blood is sent to Newborn Screening Ontario (NSO) for testing. Your healthcare provider will receive results within about two weeks. You will only be notified if your baby screens positive for one of these disorders or a repeat sample is needed. This does not mean your baby has an illness but that more testing may be needed. Watch the video below to learn more or go to Newborn Screening Ontario.
Some babies with CCHD are not identified by prenatal ultrasound or by physical examination after birth and can appear to be healthy (no symptoms). These babies are at risk for having serious complications within the first few days or weeks of life and require emergency care. This screening is done by measuring your baby's oxygen saturation levels. An instrument, called a pulse oximeter, is placed on your baby's hand and foot, each for about 30 seconds. This screening is done between 24 and 48 hours after your baby is born. If there are concerns with your baby's oxygen saturation levels, it does not necessarily mean your baby has a congenital heart defect, but more testing may be required. Your baby's physician will be notified for follow-up assessment. Most congenital heart defects can be treated. Learn more about Critical Congenital Heart Defects →
Some babies are at risk for developing low blood sugar after birth due to certain conditions (e.g. infant of a diabetic mother, prematurity, small or large for gestational age). Skin-to-Skin immediately and uninterrupted for at least the first hour after birth and frequently after that, can help can help your baby to regulate their blood sugar. Blood will be taken from your baby’s heel to test their blood sugar. If your baby's blood sugar is found to be low, it's important to feed your baby often to help regulate it. Once your baby’s blood sugars have normalized this testing will stop.
Healthy Babies Healthy Children (HBHC) is a free and voluntary home visiting program. A Public Health Nurse will visit your bedside before you leave the hospital to complete the HBHC screening tool and give you information about community supports. As part of the screening process, the nurse will ask you questions about your pregnancy, your family history, and your baby’s birth, to see if you are eligible for the program. Learn more about the HBHC home visiting program →
Last modified on: February 20, 2020