Importance of Newborn Screenings

Industry: Healthcare

Neonatal nurse practitioner at Intermountain Park City Hospital discusses why newborn screenings are important.

Park City, UT (PRUnderground) October 4th, 2022

Most newborn babies are healthy when they’re born. But some babies look healthy, but may have a rare health condition. When a baby is born, it’s important he or she is screened and tested because if problems are found early, they can prevent more serious problems. It’s important to check if a baby’s heart is working properly and to check their blood for certain medical conditions, and check for jaundice, and check to see if a baby is hearing properly.

Newborn screenings help save and improve babies’ lives. Many of these screenings tests are required by state law because studies show these procedures can protect a baby’s health and well‑being and help them benefit from early detection and treatment.

When a baby is born at an Intermountain Hospital in Utah, four main screenings are performed to help keep babies healthy and diagnose certain conditions. If parents opt for a home birth or a birth at a birthing center, it’s best to make sure either the birthing center or a pediatrician provides these screenings and treatments.

Newborn Screening

The Utah newborn bloodspot screening program checks for 42 disorders from just a few drops of blood. The screening checks for hormone abnormalities, red blood cell abnormalities, Cystic Fibrosis, immunodeficiency disorders, sickle cell conditions, endocrine, hematologic, neurologic and metabolic conditions including phenylketonuria or PKU.

Newborn bloodspot screening is the first step towards a healthy baby, since its helps save and improve newborns lives. Even though most of the conditions tested for are uncommon, taken together, they affect about one in 300 newborns.

The screening happens in two parts. The first part of the test is done in the hospital at about 24 hours after birth. A trained phlebotomist takes a few drops of blood from the baby’s heel. The dried blood spot card is sent to the state newborn screening lab. The second part of the blood test is done between 7-28 days after birth. When parents leave the hospital, they receive a second blood spot card to take to their first newborn checkup – which is one of the many reasons it’s important for parents to make and keep those appointments for their baby.

Overall, early identification of these conditions can make a big difference in quality of life and health of newborns.

Further testing may be needed to confirm a diagnosis. A baby’s newborn provider or a Utah Newborn Screening program representative will notify parents and discuss any concerns and details about follow up testing. The Newborn Screening Program, run through the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, along with the primary care providers and specialists in metabolic, endocrine, cystic fibrosis, hematology, neurology and immunology, all work together when disorders are identified to determine the best care and treatment for baby.

The most common condition screened for on the newborn blood spot screening is congenital hypothyroidism, occurring in about 1 out of 2,000 births. Detecting this can mean the difference of a baby developing normally or having profound developmental delay.

Bilirubin screening

Bilirubin screening is a routine practice to screen every newborn for jaundice.  The screening is done before a baby leaves the hospital. It’s done by taking a small sample of blood from a baby’s heel or by using a device to measure the level of bilirubin in the skin.

More than 80% of infants will have some degree of jaundice, and it typically goes away without any treatment. But high levels of bilirubin can cause swelling in the brain referred to as bilirubin encephalopathy. Screening allows early detection and treatment to prevent this serious problem.

Heart defect screening

Congenital heart disease (CHD) refers to a problem in the structure of the heart or the blood flow through the heart. If the CHD is serious, it’s called a critical congenital heart defect and needs to be detected and repaired early in a baby’s life to help prevent other health problems. Screening with pulse oximetry allows for early detection. It measures how much oxygen is in the blood. It requires placing a sticky strip, like a band-aid, on the baby’s hand and foot. The strip has a small red light that is the sensor. The sensor is attached to a wire, which is attached to a monitor that shows the reading. It’s a quick, safe, and painless way to check for a low oxygen levels. Additional testing may be needed.

Hearing screening

This screening is a quick, painless way to check a baby’s hearing. To do the test, a specially trained medical provider puts a small rubber probe in the opening of a baby’s outer ear while a baby is quiet. A computer sends out soft clicking sounds through the probe. If a baby’s ears are healthy, they will “echo” the sound back to the probe. Most of the time, parents learn right away their baby has passed the hearing screen. But if there’s no “echo” from a baby’s ear to the testing device, a baby will need a second test. There are many possible reasons a baby may not pass the first hearing screen. Follow up as a baby’s healthcare professional recommends. Early detection and treatment can help prevent speech and language delays.


For more information about newborn screenings or to find a provider visit

About Intermountain Healthcare

Headquartered in Utah with locations in eight states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information and updates, click here

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