Newborn screening

When a baby is born, he or she is entitled to a range of routine health checks and tests in the first six weeks. These include:

  • a physical examination
  • a hearing test
  • a blood test (taken from the baby's heel)

Most babies are healthy and won't have any of the conditions or problems that the screening tests are looking for. But for those babies that do have a health problem, the benefits of screening can be enormous.  Early treatment can improve the baby's health and prevent severe disability or even death.

It's a good idea for you to consent to your baby having the checks and tests, but you can decline if you wish.

The checks and tests are quick and won't harm your baby.

Physical examination

Every baby has a head-to-toe physical examination soon after birth to identify babies likely to have particular conditions that may need further monitoring, investigation or treatment.

The examination is carried out within 72 hours of birth and then again at six to eight weeks of age, as some conditions can develop later.

Read more about what's involved in the  newborn physical examination.

The hearing screening test

A hearing screening test is performed within a few weeks of your baby being born, either while you're both still in hospital, by a health visitor in your home, or at your local GP surgery or health clinic.

Read more about the newborn hearing screening test.

Blood spot (heel prick) test

Newborn blood spot screening involves taking a blood sample to find out if your baby has one of nine rare but serious health conditions.

When your baby is about five days old, a midwife will collect a sample of blood by pricking the baby’s heel using a special device and squeezing out a few drops of blood on to a card. The heel prick may be uncomfortable and the baby may cry, but it's all over very quickly.

The card is then sent off for analysis.

Read more about the newborn blood test


Page last reviewed: 05/01/2014

Next review due: 05/01/2016


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Rachael36 said on 23 February 2011

My daughter was born with a Congenital Heart Defect which went undiagnosed for over 5 months. She then required open heart surgery at 6 months old.
It would be an excellent idea if the NHS introduced the mandatory screening for CHDs. By doing a simple test in the first 24 hours (a pulse oximetry test) that measures the oxygen levels in the blood can help detect some heart defects. I believe this is mandatory in some countries. I do hope that in the near future this happens for all newborns so that babies do not have to suffer like my little girl did. Thanks

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