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What is Newborn Screening?

Newborn screening is a state public health service that reaches each of the nearly 4 million babies born in the United States each year. It ensures that all babies are screened for certain rare, but serious health conditions at birth. For babies identified with a health condition, early detection allows providers to start treatment before the baby becomes symptomatic and harmful effects happen.

For more information visit Expecting Health

How is my baby tested?

A few drops of blood are taken from your baby’s heel and placed on a newborn screening card. This card is transported to the laboratory for immediate processing. If an out-of-range result is detected, your baby’s health provider will be notified immediately and they will reach out to you with next steps. 

My baby looks healthy. Is newborn screening really necessary?

Most infants with conditions identified through newborn screening do not appear to be sick until damage has already occurred. In each of the conditions there is an "invisible" problem in one of the many chemicals that are produced naturally in the baby's body. Special laboratory tests are used to identify these imbalances right away to alert the doctor that additional testing needs to occur. 

What is the chance my baby has a condition found by screening?

The conditions identified through screening are rare, but serious and can happen in families with no history of disease. Babies with these conditions may appear to be healthy, but can still have a condition. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment can be life saving!

How are results reported and how will I be notified if my baby needs treatment?

The newborn screening results will be reported to the hospital where your baby was born. Ask your provider for your baby's newborn screening results at the first newborn visit. If your baby's results are abnormal, further testing will be done to confirm or rule out a condition. Your provider must have good contact information to reach you in the case that urgent follow-up is needed.

Your baby needs a repeat newborn screening. What is next?

This does not necessarily mean that your newborn has a condition. Some reasons why repeat screenings are needed include:

  • Borderline results - the results were slightly out of range
  • Early collection - the specimen was collected before 24 hours of age
  • Treatment/Medication Interference - some can interfere with the results
  • Quality of the sample - there may have been improper handling of the specimen that caused it to not be testable.

Contact your baby's health care provider as soon as possible to schedule a repeat screening. 

Can I refuse newborn blood spot screening?

In North Dakota, newborn screening is mandatory; however, parents/guardians may refuse. If you are considering refusing the screening, please discuss your concerns with your baby's health care provider.

To refuse the screening, the parents/guardians must have read and received written information about newborn screening. A signed refusal form must be sent to the Newborn Screening program. Access the newborn screening refusal form here

What if my baby is not born in a hospital?

It is very important that babies born outside of hospitals are tested between 24 to 48 hours after birth. Parents should arrange with a doctor, hospital or midwife to have the screening done. Visit the main page to find a birthing facility near you. 

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The North Dakota Health and Human Services, Special Health Services Unit, does not assume responsibility for the content obtained from external hyperlinks accessed from this website. Any links to external sources are outside of our domain. Information on external websites does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the North Dakota Health and Human Services agency or Special Health Services Unit.