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Newborn blood spot screening

Why does my baby need to be screened?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​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 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 comforting them, keeping them warm, and holding them against your skin. 

Feeding your baby during and after the heel poke often helps, too.

What happens after the newborn blood spot screen is done?

After the newborn blood spot screen is done, the blood spot card goes to the newborn screening lab in Edmonton for testing. The results become part of your baby’s health record. 

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. 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.

What if my baby needs the screen done again?

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

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

  • There was a problem with the information provided on the blood spot card or the blood spots themselves.​
  • There was a borderline screen result. This means the results did not give a clear answer and another screen is needed to get a clear result.
  • Your baby was born under 2000 grams or before 37 weeks. To properly detect some conditions, another screen done after a few weeks will help make sure the test result is clear.​

When your baby needs to have the newborn blood spot 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?

Newborn blood spot 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 3, 2023

Author: Alberta Newborn Screening Program, Alberta Health Services