Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2017;95(11):online

See related article on newborn screening.

What is newborn screening?

All babies born in the United States get a blood test soon after birth to check for certain illnesses. They may also be tested for other problems, like hearing loss or heart conditions.

About 24 to 48 hours after your baby is born, a nurse takes a few drops of blood from your baby's heel for testing.

What tests are done?

All babies should be tested for 34 main conditions. However, every state has different laws that decide which conditions to screen for. Ask your doctor which tests are done in your state.

What happens when the results are in?

The results are usually ready within 24 hours of the test, but you may have already gone home from the hospital. If any of the tests are positive, your doctor or someone from your state's newborn screening program will call you.

A positive test does not mean that your child is sick. Some babies need to be retested. It is important to get retested quickly.

Why do we have newborn screening programs?

Babies with certain illnesses may look healthy at birth. Newborn screening finds the illnesses very early, and treatment can be started before there are serious problems. If not treated, some of these illnesses can cause lifelong health problems or early death.

It is important to talk to your doctor if you have any questions about the tests or illnesses.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

Boston Children's Hospital

Save Babies Through Screening Foundation

Screening, Technology and Research in Genetics (STAR-G) Project

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and American Academy of Pediatrics

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