Screenings can detect health conditions in your baby when they are most treatable

September 1, 2021

Your baby can be born with a health condition but not show any signs at first. Health conditions that are found early can often be treated. This month, we’re shedding light on the importance of newborn screening tests, which can discover serious but rare conditions before they cause issues for your baby.

September is Newborn Screening Awareness Month. Roughly 4 million babies are born in the United States each year, and the health of nearly every one of them is reviewed through a state-specific newborn screening program.

A screening is a medical test to see if someone is at risk for certain health conditions. A newborn screening checks your baby for health conditions at birth. The baby’s health care provider usually conducts the screening when the baby is 1 to 2 days old. Some states require that babies have a second newborn screening about 1 to 2 weeks later.

Six Decades of Screenings

Newborn screening began in the 1960s when a doctor created a blood test to find out if babies had a rare disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU). Now, screening tests are available to check for more than 60 disorders.

Why are newborn screenings important?

Most newborn screenings include blood tests, hearing tests and heart tests. Because these tests can alert health care providers to possible medical issues, they save or improve the lives of more than 12,000 babies each year.

Each state requires different tests, so ask your baby’s health care provider which tests your baby will have. You also can visit to find out what conditions are tested for in your state.

What if your baby’s results aren’t normal?

The good news is that most newborn screening results are normal. If your baby’s screening results aren’t normal, it may simply mean that they need to run a few more tests. For example, your baby’s provider may recommend a diagnostic test to see if there’s a health problem. If the results of the diagnostic test are normal, no more testing is needed. However, if the diagnostic test results are not normal, your provider will talk to you about the next steps for your baby.