It’s what’s inside that counts: National newborn screening month

By Published On: September 4th, 2012

What if we told you a simple heel prick blood […]

What if we told you a simple heel prick blood test, done before you ever leave the hospital, is all it takes to find out if your family’s precious new addition could be at risk for several life-threatening conditions? September is National Newborn Screening Month, so make sure to get the low-down on the law and find out what tests your state requires.
The 1960s brought us several things we can’t live without—The Beatles, I Dream of Jeanie, birth control and, of course, newborn hospital screenings. At first, tots were just tested for phenylketonuria, a rare birth defect that causes dangerous levels of amino acid to build up in the body. Today phenylketonuria hails at the top of a laundry list of diseases to be screened for, some of which include cystic fibrosis, congenital hypothyroidism, sickle cell disease, critical congenital heart disease and other metabolism problems.
However, while the federal government requires testing by day two of life (and no later than day seven by the absolute latest), they let individual states decide on how many diseases they are actually going to look for. The average number of screened conditions is eight, but some states test for as few as four or as many as thirty-six. And while this is the law and parental consent is not required, exemptions are allowed for many reasons, including religious differences.
But these screenings have some up in arms. Many argue it’s unfair to not nationally test for the same scope of diseases, and others object to the low risks or high number of false positives. Nintey percent of families that receive a positive test result (meaning baby has potential for a disease) have actually been given a false positive. Furthermore, just because a genetic abnormality exists doesn’t mean it will ever manifest into a serious issue (So don’t freak out! We’re all genetically weird in some way, shape or form).
But doctors say the benefits far outweigh any consequences. While most babies are healthy and the test is just a precaution, it is highly beneficial to infants that may have something wrong. Screening aims to identify possible conditions before they present or any irreversible damage occurs.
All science mumbo-jumbo aside, knowledge is always power. Learn the facts, know your state’s law and give baby the best start you possibly can!