About Newborn Screening Ask an Expert

Have a question that’s not answered on Baby’s First Test? Send it to our experts.

Please remember, we can only help you with general questions about newborn screening. For personal medical questions, it’s best to ask your doctor.

Q:My nurse said my baby needed a “PKU test.” Is a “PKU test” the same as “newborn screening”?
Yes.  Some health professionals will use the term “PKU test” as a synonym for “newborn screening.”  The term “PKU test” can be misleading.  Every state screens for phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare metabolic disorder, but they also screen for many other conditions.  To find out what conditions are included in your state’s newborn screening program visit this page.
Q:Will the newborn screening blood test hurt my baby?
Most babies experience some brief discomfort from the heel stick, but it heals quickly and leaves no scar.  The following suggestions may help make the screening experience more comfortable for you and your baby:

1.  Nurse/feed the baby before and/or after the procedure.  

2.  Hold the baby during the procedure.

3.  Make sure the baby is warm and comfortable during the procedure.

Studies show that when mothers or health professionals comfort babies during the heel stick, the babies are less likely to cry.
Q:Why are all babies screened at birth?
Most babies are born healthy. However, some infants have a serious medical condition even though they look and act like all newborns. These babies generally come from families with no previous history of a condition. Newborn screening allows health professionals to identify and treat certain conditions before they make a baby sick. Most babies with these conditions who are identified at birth and treated early are able to grow up healthy with normal development.
Q:Do parents have to ask for screening?
No – it is normal hospital procedure to screen every baby regardless of whether the parent asks for it and whether the parents have health insurance. The screening test is normally included in the forms for standard medical procedures that the newborn may need after birth. Parents sign this form upon arrival at the hospital for the birth of their baby. All states require screening to be performed on newborns, but most will allow parents to refuse for religious purposes. Any decision to decline or refuse testing should first be discussed with a health professional, since newborn screening is designed to protect the health of the baby. 
Q:What uses do residual dried blood spots have for a family?
Dried blood spots can be used in the event that a baby requires retesting, providing a fast alternative to bringing the parents and infant back to the hospital for a new blood draw. This is critical, as many of the conditions screened for by newborn screening need to be diagnosed as quickly as possible. Many states try to leave one full spot on the card.

The dried blood spots can also be made available to the parents for further health-related tests for their newborn, and can be used for identification purposes in the case of a missing or deceased child. The dried blood spots can be used to provide a match to help identify the child at the parent’s request.

Was this Helpful?

Your input helps us improve the site for parents and practitioners. Leave us feedback about this page.

Was this page helpful?

Was this Helpful? - Feedback

Your input helps us improve the site for parents and practitioners. Leave us feedback about this page.

We're sorry to hear that. How can we do to improve it?

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.