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What every mum should know about newborn hospital tests

Once your baby is born, a range of tests are done to make sure they are healthy and stay that way outside of the womb. Midwife Jo Jury explains what tests are done and why.

St John of God Health Care maternity

After being welcomed into the world your baby will need to undergo various tests to check their health and to identify any issues that may need attention.

Doing these tests as early as possible means any potential concerns can be addressed rapidly.

What tests you can expect

Oxygen levels (oximetry)

All babies have their oxygen levels screened during routine neonatal observations soon after birth and during the first 24 hours of age. These levels are then checked daily and prior to discharge.

The test to do this, called oximetry, involves placing sensors on your baby’s skin. It is painless and only takes a few minutes.

The test may detect critical congenital heart abnormalities and other anomalies that may be present.

Newborn screening test 

The newborn screening test (also known as the Guthrie test) is conducted on all babies born in Australia and has been offered as part of routine screening for more than 40 years. It detects a range of conditions including metabolic disorders and cystic fibrosis, which can benefit from early intervention.

The test is conducted when you baby is between 48 and 72 hours old, and involves pricking your baby’s heel and putting a few drops of their blood on filter paper for analysis. Some babies do cry, but don’t worry, the discomfort doesn’t last long.

No news is good news and you are only notified of the result if further action is required.

Hearing screening

A hearing screening test is usually conducted on babies while in hospital. although it can be done after your baby has left hospital. Your midwife will organise an outpatient appointment for your baby to have their hearing screen if required.

The test involves placing earphone cups over your baby’s ears and measuring their response to soft clicking sounds which come from the earphones. Leads measure you’re the response for your baby’s ears.

Whenever your baby is tested, we explain what is involved and why we are testing your baby. We obtain your consent prior to performing any testing on your baby.

For further information on these tests or how they are performed, please consult your doctor or midwife.

About the author

Jo Jury is an experienced midwife and an Assistant Maternity Nurse Unit Manager at St John of God Bendigo Hospital. She has more than eight years’ experience as a midwife and has a particular interest in perinatal mental health and all aspects of midwifery care and early parenting.