The Precious Newborn Days and Screening Tests

There is no getting away from how precious our babies are to us. From the moment we see the lines appear on the pregnancy test we are invested in their futures. Every twinge and stretching muscles, every wriggle and set of in utero hiccups is kept a watchful eye on by a team of professionals and ourselves. We pour over countless books about how to have a healthy and relaxing pregnancy, labor and birth and how the early days (now called the fourth trimester) might impact us mentally and physically. Sometimes, in the focus of the pregnancy and childbirth, we actually don’t pay as much attention to the following few days as we maybe should. There are a few checks that will be done on your little one in the days and week after birth, here they are and what they are for:

Immediately following birth:

APGAR score. This test is often done so quickly many post-birth parents won’t even see it being done, but you can ask your midwife if you like. The test is done at one, five and ten minutes post birth. Your baby will have the following things checked:


  • Heart rate
  • Breathing
  • Skin Colour
  • Movement
  • Response to stimulation


Each of these categories is given a score between zero and two. But what do the ratings mean? Well, between 8-10 means your baby is in excellent condition, 5-7 might need a little help but is in fair condition, and under 5 they might need a little bit of help. Be sure to keep in mind (as tricky as it might be) that even a low score might be rectified in an hour or so, it could be the effects of traumatic birth or a lot of pain relief making the baby sleepy. The test will be repeated as required.

Weight & Height:

When you have had the golden hour of skin to skin, you might find your baby might need to head off to be weighted. This is to make a start on your child’s development charts in their records. Height, weight and head circumference is noted down.

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Standard Screening:

Heel stick test, this is where your babies foot will be pricked to collect some blood samples. You might like to comfort your baby during this process, some babies cry, and others seem too relaxed to care. Work with your midwife or paediatric nurse to make it as stress-free as possible. You are able to ask for extra screening should you feel like you want to, but the standard ones are usually enough to flag up any issues. You will be contacted in a matter of days if you need to have a follow-up.


Their hearing will be tested too. The two tests are relatively quick, between 5-10 minutes and non invasive.  In fact, these tests are often performed when your baby is comfortably sleeping.


OAE test: Otoacoustic Emissions, this test checks what parts of a baby’s ear are responding to sound. A mini earphone and microphone are placed in the ear, and some sounds are played. A baby with normal hearing with have an echo played back into the ear canal, and the microphone will measure what is returned. If no echo is picked up by the microphone, it can indicate some hearing loss.


ABR test: The Auditory Brainstem Response test, this one checks out the brain’s response to sound. During this test, small headphones are placed in the ears, and sounds are played (similar to the first test). Small electrodes are positioned along the baby’s head to detect the responses.


(it is essential to protect your child’s hearing as they grow. You should invest in some baby hearing protection early in life. And stick to the 60% volume for a maximum of 60 minutes with headphones as they grow)


Pulse Ox: This non-invasive test measures how much oxygen is in the blood. It helps to identify heart issues, by detecting the amount of oxygen that is in the blood. A small sensor is placed on your baby’s skin, and it takes a few minutes to get the result. There will likely be tests at 24 hours old and a few days after you both leave the hospital.


You will not need to ask for any of these screenings to be done, they are done for all babies – regardless if you have health insurance or not. The screening test will most likely be on the forms for standard medical procedures that a newborn baby will need after birth. All states require these screenings to be done as it is designed to protect your newborn. All of these tests will be done from moments after birth to within 72 hours maximum.


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