Your Newborn: Right after Birth

Newborn babies are tested as soon after birth as possible.  Each state has its own laws dictating which disorders are screened for.  You can check on your state’s website to find out what to expect.  We will discuss some of the most common tests.  If your baby appears healthy, all the tests except the Apgar test can be done within an hour.  However, many doctors and hospitals prefer to do all the testing immediately, thus prolonging the moments just after birth when you may prefer holding your new baby.  Discuss with your doctor what his procedure is, and if you choose, arrange for him to wait on the shots, medication, and tests (except the Apgar test) until you have some time with your baby.

The following tests and screenings are typically required or recommended:

Apgar Evaluation

An Apgar test can quickly detect if your baby is healthy or needs extra medical care.  The test is usually done twice, one minute after birth, and a second test 5 minutes later.  Five components are measured:

  • Heart Rate
  • Breathing
  • Activity and muscle
  • Reflexes
  • Skin Color
Apgar Evaluation

Apgar scores are 0 to 10.  A score of 7 or more is considered very healthy.  However, a lower score does not necessarily mean something is amiss.  Perfectly healthy babies can have an Apgar score below 7 in the first minute, but elevate higher in the second testing.  If, after the second 5 minute scoring the baby still has 6 or lower, he/she needs medical care of some kind and close monitoring.

Eye Care

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all newborns receive eye drops or ointment to prevent infections they may have been exposed to during delivery.  Sexually transmitted diseases are the main cause of newborn eye infections.  Left untreated, they can cause blindness.  Silver nitrate, erythromycin, and tetracycline are the three medicines used.  They can sting and/or blur the baby’s eyes.  There is no evidence that these medications cause harm.

Vitamin K Shot

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns receive a vitamin k shot.  It is given in the upper leg.  Vitamin k aids in blood clotting.  Low levels of vitamin can cause a rare by serious bleeding problem.

Metabolic Screening

A small prick is made in your baby’s heel in order to get a blood sample.  All 50 states test for phenylketonuria and congenital hypothyroidism.  Up to as many as 35 other diseases are tested for, depending on the state.  If left untreated, some of these diseases can cause mental retardation or death.

Hearing Test

Many hospitals offer newborn hearing tests.  Tiny earphones or microphones are used to see how the baby reacts to sound.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Most hospitals recommend that newborns received a vaccination to protect from hepatitis B virus (HBV).  HBV can cause a lifelong infection or even death.

Complete Check-up

Soon after delivery:
  • Measure length, weight, and head
  • Take the baby’s temperature
  • Measure breathing and heart rate
  • The baby is bathed and the umbilical cord is prepared
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