5 screening tests your newborn baby needs

Posted on October 3rd, 2013

Right after birth, your new baby has a busy schedule of tests and checks ahead of her. Here’s what you can expect to happen in the first 24 to 48 hours after birth.

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:

  1. Heart rate
  2. Breathing effort
  3. Colour
  4. Body position
  5. Reflexes.

A baby gets a score out of 2 for each of these criteria at a minute and again at five minutes after birth.
She gets 2 points if she fully meets the criteria, 1 point if she partially meets the criteria and 0 if she doesn’t meet the criteria at all.
The respective scores (for one minute and again at five minutes after birth) are added together which then gives her two separate scores out of 10.
Scores of 7 and higher are good.
Scores of 6 and lower are indicative that your baby will probably need some help from the doctor or healthcare provider attending the 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.

4. Vaccinations

  • 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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Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.