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Why Newborn Screening Is Important

Soon after birth, babies born in Tennessee and throughout the country are tested for serious, rare diseases. Most of these diseases can be cured or treated if found soon after birth.

Newborn screening is important. Even if your baby looks healthy, some medical conditions can't be seen just by looking. If your baby was not born in a hospital or wasn’t screened before leaving the hospital, take them to the doctor's office to be screened as soon as possible.

Newborn screening includes three parts: blood spot screening, hearing screening, and pulse oximetry. Learn about Tennessee’s newborn screening program and why it’s important:

Blood Spot Screening

Blood spot screening tests for over 60 rare but treatable conditions. The hospital or birthing facility gets a drop of blood by pricking your baby’s heel. The blood is placed on special filter paper and sent to the State Laboratory.

If test results are not normal, parents will be contacted by the baby’s doctor as soon as possible. If retesting is needed, it’s important that this is done as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment could make a big difference in a child’s long-term health.

Hearing Screening

The newborn hearing screening program makes sure all infants born in Tennessee are checked for hearing loss.: The 1-3-6 plan for newborn hearing makes sure that:

1 - All infants will be screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital or before 1 month of age.

3 - All infants who don’t pass the hearing screening will be seen by an audiologist, a hearing specialist, before 3 months of age.

6 - All infants identified with hearing loss will start receiving early intervention services by 6 months of age. These services help babies stay on track with speech, language and communication skills.

The plan also makes sure that all families of children with hearing loss are able to get parent support services.

Hearing screening is usually done before you take your baby home from the hospital. The families of infants who are not born in a hospital can contact a hearing provider near their home using the Pediatric Hearing Provider Directory.

Pulse Oximetry Screening

Pulse oximetry screening checks for certain life-threatening heart defects known as critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect and may be found before the baby is born or after birth. By finding CCHD early, babies can often be helped with surgery or other medical treatments.

Pulse oximetry is a simple test to find out the amount of oxygen in a baby's blood. A small strip that looks like a bandage is placed on the baby’s hand and/or foot. This strip has a sensor that can detect the amount of oxygen in a baby’s blood. Low levels of oxygen in the blood can be a sign of CCHD.

For More Information

If you have questions about Tennessee’s infant screening program, call 855-202-1357 or send an email to nbs.health@tn.gov.

Additional Resources

Learn more about newborn screenings and what to expect.

Get more information about newborn screenings in Tennessee.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers more information on why baby screenings are important and potential treatments.

Find out about the Center on Deafness in Tennessee.

Learn about the Family Voices of Tennessee PEARS program.

Studies show breastfeeding is best for babies. Get some breastfeeding tips for new moms. Call the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline toll-free with questions at 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667). Professionals are available 24/7.

You always want to make sure your baby is safe. That includes during sleep time. Learn about the ABCs of Safe Sleep.

Learn about your baby’s brain development from birth to one year old. Also learn about development of language and motor skills in babies from birth to one.