Nursing sister and childcare expert, Ann Richardson and Paediatrician Dr Dewald Buitendag explain the general tests and examinations you can expect your baby to have after birth:
1. Apgar score
- The first test that’s routinely done on all newborn babies is the Apgar score. This test is done a minute after birth and again five minutes later.
- It’s important to do the Apgar score because it can alert doctors if your baby is in danger, and it can give them an indication of how quickly and effectively your little one adapts to life outside the womb.
- If there were no complications at birth, your baby’s Apgar scores can be assessed while she’s lying on your chest. If your baby’s health is in danger, the nurses and doctor will take your baby to assess her Apgar scores first and make sure she’s healthy and out of danger before you bond with her.
How the Apgar score works
The Apgar score takes into account five criteria:
A baby gets a score out of 2 for each of these criteria at a minute and again at five minutes after birth.
2. Vitamin K
- Your baby will get a vitamin K immunisation straight after birth.
- Vitamin K plays an important part in making our blood clot and is given to babies to prevent bleeding.
3. General examination
- During birth, blood will usually be taken from the umbilical cord to test your baby’s blood group and to make sure that her thyroid gland is functioning normally.
- Soon after delivery, your baby’s weight, length and head circumference will be measured. These measurements are vital for future comparisons and assessments for your baby’s health and rate of growth, and also to screen for abnormalities.
- After taking her measurements, a quick examination by your doctor or midwife will follow, just to make sure everything is okay with your baby.
- Your baby’s blood glucose levels will also be monitored during the first couple of hours after birth. If these levels are low, your baby will have to be treated.
- Before your baby can go home, she’ll need to get polio drops and a BCG injection. These vaccinations are routinely given to babies before they’re discharged from hospital.
- Polio drops are given orally and will prevent your baby from getting polio.
- The BCG is an intradermal injection given in the right arm and will prevent your baby from developing tuberculosis.
5. Hearing test
Your baby’s hearing should ideally be tested at birth even though hearing tests and eye tests aren’t done routinely at birth.
If the hospital where you give birth doesn’t have a resident audiologist on staff, ensure that you get your baby’s ears tested before the three-to-six-month-mark. Treatment for hearing loss is most effective if it’s started when a baby’s six months old.
Hearing is a critical part of a child’s development during the first few years. Even mild or partial hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to speak and understand language.
Download your vaccination schedule for children from birth to 12 years old, incorporating both the private and the public sector here.
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