New England Newborn Screening Program
It is a requirement under Massachusetts law that all newborns be tested for disorders that are believed to be treatable. Testing all babies is important because most babies appear healthy at birth but may have diseases only detected by newborn screening.
The purpose of the New England Newborn Screening Program is to test all newborns in Massachusetts for early signs of these diseases. The chance that your baby will have one of these disorders is very small. Newborn screening tests provide an early opportunity to detect certain disorders before symptoms appear. In the rare cases when a disorder is found, early diagnosis and treatment can usually prevent problems associated with these disorders. For the small number of babies who do have one of these diseases, newborn screening can make a lifetime of difference.
How are the tests done?
At about 48 hours after the birth, or just before you bring your baby home from the hospital, a small blood sample will be taken from the baby’s heel. Only a few drops of blood are needed. If testing shows that your baby has signs of one of these treatable diseases, your baby’s physician will call you to arrange appropriate follow-up care for your baby.
Optional Newborn Screening
For your benefit, Massachusetts offers optional newborn screening for additional disorders. There is no extra cost and no extra blood required for your baby to participate.
Under Massachusetts guidelines for this optional program, after your baby is born, you will be asked whether you want to take advantage of the optional newborn screening. If you decide you do not want to participate, your baby will still have all the benefits of routine newborn screening.
Most states have specific laws regarding newborn screening. In Massachusetts you may refuse for religious reasons. If you do so, you will be asked to sign a refusal form. This form relieves your physician of liability for damages that result from a disorder that could have been detected by screening.
Newborn Hearing Screening
At birth, your baby begins an intensive period of development that establishes the basis for lifelong language, thinking, and social skills. The most critical years for development of speech and language are from birth to age three.
Because babies must be able to hear in order to speak, undetected and untreated hearing problems can lead to speech and language delays and learning disabilities. Babies who are found to have a hearing loss early and receive intervention services before six months of age have better language, speech and social skills. Early identification and treatment are essential to provide your child with the fullest opportunity for normal development.
The Newborn Hearing Screening Program offers a hearing screening test to every baby born at South Shore Hospital. The test is easy, painless and reliable. Your baby's nurse or audiologist will report the screening results to you and arrange appropriate follow-up care if necessary.
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of newborn hearing screening. Call your insurance company with any questions. Patients that do not have a health insurance plan that covers the cost of a newborn hearing screening should call (800) 882-1435 for more information.