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Screening Blood Tests for Newborn Babies

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Why does my baby need newborn screening blood tests?

Most babies are healthy when they are born, but all babies need this screening blood test because a few may look healthy but have a rare disease. These diseases can be treated if they are found early in life. Early treatment can help prevent serious problems such as mental retardation or even death. The screening allows us to find out and treat the baby soon after birth, before the disease causes him/her to become sick.

A dried blood spot screening is required by law for all babies born in Virginia. Every newborn in Virginia is tested unless a parent or guardian objects on the grounds that the test conflicts with their religious beliefs.

The screening blood tests are done by the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS). The Virginia Department of Health contacts your doctor if there is a problem with your baby’s results. Make sure that the hospital and your baby’s doctor have your correct phone number and address so they can call you as needed.

How is my baby tested?

The nurse will prick your baby’s heel to get a few drops of blood. It only takes a tiny bit of blood do all the tests. The heel prick feels no worse than being stuck by a pin. The blood will be placed on a special paper, dried, and sent to DCLS. Problems from the test, such as an infection of the heel, are very rare. Newborn screening should be done 24 hours after birth to give the most reliable test results.

Will my baby need to be retested?

Sometimes a baby will need to be retested. Your doctor will tell you why your baby needs to be retested. It does not mean that something is wrong with your baby.  Some of the reasons retesting may be needed are:

  • The first sample did not get to the lab in time to be tested
  • The first sample could not be collected at 24 hours of age so the results may not be accurate
  • The results of the first test show there may be a problem.

It is important that you act quickly if your baby needs to be retested after he/she leaves the hospital. Bring your baby to his/her doctor as soon as possible if you receive a call for retesting.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 01/2010

(757) 668-7000