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Newborn Blood Spot Screening

Why Does My Baby Need To Be Screened Or Screened Again?

Does my baby really need newborn blood spot screening?

Your baby may look and act healthy, but could still have a treatable condition. Your baby may have a condition even if there’s no family history of one.

Where does the screen happen?

Usually the screening is done at the hospital before your baby goes home. If it doesn’t happen at the hospital, it will be done at a home visit, a clinic visit, or a lab in your community. It’s best if this screening is done when your baby is between 24 and 72 hours old.

How is my baby’s blood collected for the screen?

Your baby’s blood is collected quickly and safely. The healthcare provider doing the screening will:

  1. poke your baby’s heel using a small plastic object called a lancet
  2. collect a few drops of your baby’s blood onto a blood spot card (Sometimes, another poke is needed to get the right amount of blood.)
  3. put a cotton gauze on your baby’s heel to stop the bleeding

How can I help my baby during the heel poke?

You can help your baby by:

  • keeping them warm
  • comforting them
  • holding them close against your skin
  • breastfeeding your baby during and after the heel poke often helps

What happens after the newborn blood spot screen is done?

After the newborn blood spot screen is done, the card goes to the Newborn Metabolic Screening Lab in Edmonton for testing. The results become part of your baby’s health record. Your baby’s doctor or midwife and birth hospital will get the results.

How will I find out my baby’s results?

Your doctor or midwife will have the results by the time your baby is 2 weeks old. You can talk to them about your baby’s results. If your doctor or midwife doesn’t contact you about your baby’s screen results, it usually means the results are normal. A healthcare provider will contact you if your baby needs to have the screen done again or if your baby needs more tests.

What does a normal screen result mean?

A normal newborn blood spot screen means it’s very unlikely that your baby has one of the conditions that was tested for. Your baby doesn’t need the screen done again.

What if my baby needs the screen done again?

Sometimes the newborn metabolic screen has to be done again to get clear results. This doesn’t always mean that your baby has one of the conditions.

The newborn metabolic screen may have to be done again if any of the following happen:

  • There was a problem with the blood spot card, like missing information on the card, too little blood on the card, or blood not being put on the card correctly.
  • There was a borderline newborn blood spot screen result. This means the results did not give a clear answer and another screen is needed to get clear results.
  • Your baby was born too small (less than 2000 grams) or too early (before 37 weeks) to properly detect some conditions. Another screen after a few weeks will help make sure test results are correct.

When your baby needs to have the newborn metabolic screen done again, your public health nurse or midwife will arrange for another screen as soon as possible. The screen can happen at a home visit, a clinic visit, a lab in your community, or the hospital if you haven’t brought your baby home yet.

What else can I do to take care of my baby?

Screening only looks for certain conditions. It doesn’t check for any other health problems. So it’s important that you take your baby to see a doctor, midwife, or public health nurse regularly. If you’re worried about the way your baby is growing or if you think your baby isn’t well, contact your healthcare provider. You can also call Health Link at 811.

Always take good care of yourself. This will help you care for your baby.



Current as of: March 25, 2020

Author: Alberta's Newborn Metabolic Screening Program, Alberta Health Services