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Newborn Screening: About Your Child's Test

What is it?

Screening tests help your doctor look for a certain disease or condition before any symptoms appear. All provinces offer newborn blood spot screening, although the conditions screened for vary from province to province. In Alberta, the conditions screened for include:

  • metabolic conditions - cause problems with how your body uses food to grow and develop
  • endocrine conditions - cause problems with how your body makes hormones
  • cystic fibrosis - affects your lungs and digestive system
  • sickle cell disease - affects your blood and causes damage to heart, lungs, and kidneys
  • severe combined immunodeficiency - affects your immune system or ability to fight infections
  • Bilirubin test (to test for jaundice).
  • Congenital heart disease test.
  • Galactosemia test.
  • Hearing test.
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU) screen.
  • Sickle cell disease test.
  • Thyroid hormone tests (for thyroid problems that are present at birth).

Why is this test done?

This test is done to find out whether your baby is at risk of having certain conditions that could eventually cause problems. When discovered early, these conditions can be treated to improve the child's health.

How can you prepare for the test?

In general, you don't need to prepare your baby for this test.

How is the test done?

The baby's heel is poked, using a small plastic object called a lancet, and several drops of blood are collected. Your baby may have a tiny bruise where the heel was poked.

Soft headphones are used on or near the baby's ears. Tones or clicks are used to test for a hearing response. Sometimes small electrodes are placed on the baby's head.

What do the results of the test mean?

If the test result is abnormal, remember that this is only a screening test. An abnormal result only means that further testing is needed.

How long does the test take?

The test will take a few minutes.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have questions.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines your child takes. Your doctor will have the results of the test by the time your child is 2 weeks old. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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