4 Medical Tests Your Newborn May Have in the Hospital

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • New parents with baby talking to doctor
    The Importance of Screening
    Once you’ve delivered your baby, you’re probably anxious to go home and bond. But before you leave the hospital, your newborn is required to have a few medical tests. These tests are important because they can identify health problems early, when they are most treatable.
  • Checking the newborn
    1. The Apgar Test
    This test is usually performed one minute after birth and again five minutes later. It measures your baby’s heart rate, breathing, activity, muscle tone, skin color, and reflexes. On a scale of 0 to 10, a score of 7 or higher is considered very healthy. More than 98% of babies reach a healthy score after five minutes.
  • Pricking
    2. Heel Stick Test (or Metabolic Testing)
    About 24 to 48 hours after birth, a nurse or doctor will prick your baby’s heel to gather a few drops of blood. Although it’s hard to see your newborn prodded, it’s for a good reason. The blood is tested for up to 30 different diseases, such as sickle cell disease and hypothyroidism. The diseases tested vary somewhat by state. To learn what specific diseases your baby will be tested for, go to www.babysfirsttest.org.
  • Ear of an infant
    3. Hearing Test
    Hearing problems aren’t uncommon in babies, but they can be difficult to detect on your own. That’s why doctors test newborns in the hospital, using tiny microphones to see how babies react to sound. The test isn’t painful. In fact, your baby may be asleep while it’s done. If your little one has a hearing problem, early treatment and services can help prevent speech and language delays.
  • Pulse oximeter sensor on a baby foot
    4. Pulse Oximetry Test
    The pulse oximetry test is a painless, noninvasive test that uses a sensor placed on your baby’s skin to measure oxygen levels in the blood. The test can help doctors diagnose infants with critical congenital heart defects before they show signs of the condition. Diagnosing and treating birth defects early can help prevent serious problems, such as disability and even death.
  • Mother on cellphone, holding baby son
    Waiting for Results
    Don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear about the results of your newborn’s screening tests. For the most part, parents aren’t contacted unless the baby has an abnormal result. If you are concerned, contact your healthcare provider to confirm your baby passed the tests.
  • Doctor with mother and baby
    Getting Help
    If your newborn’s screening tests show a potential medical problem, make sure your baby gets the follow-up care he or she needs right away. Although not every abnormal result signals a true problem, it does mean additional testing may be necessary to confirm or rule out a condition.
4 Medical Tests Your Newborn May Have in the Hospital
  1. Importance of Newborn Screening. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/newbornscreening/index.html
  2. Newborn Screening? Baby’s First Test, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.babysfirsttest.org/
  3. Responding to Results. Baby’s First Test, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.babysfirsttest.org/newborn-screening/responding-to-results
  4. Screening Procedures. Baby’s First Test, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.babysfirsttest.org/newborn-screening/screening-procedures
  5. These Tests Could Save Your Baby's Life: Newborn Screening Tests. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/These-Tests-Could-Save-Your-Babys-Life-Newborn-Screening-Tests
  6. Your Baby’s First Hours of Life. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-beyond/baby-first-hours.html#c
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 16
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.