Tests for new born baby


I was at a teaching hospital recently when a mother brought her few-months-old daughter for a Specialist’s attention. The problem was that the little one was not moving one leg. I was surprised because I had not noticed that something was not as it should be with the baby; she looked well-fed, well looked after and she cooed and played contentedly in her mother’s arms.

“When did you notice this?” the consultant asked her. He did not explain to my hearing and although his tone was calm enough, but I was not in doubt that whatever the condition, it was something serious enough and which might take a gradual toll on the baby’s health had the mother not noticed and taken immediate action.

But I have heard that in some countries babies who are newly born could undergo tests for disorders, which might prove costly as the child grows older.

One of the very first a baby should have is the Apgar test, which is done at about five minutes after delivery. The test shows how baby fared with delivery and if the child can cope with life outside the womb. The Apgar test examines the muscle tone, pulse, reflex response, skin colour and respiration based on a score of one to 10. A baby who passes at 10/10 is considered to be perfect. Below seven, a baby needs immediate medical assistance.

On the second day of birth, the baby can go through the Bilirubin Test which determines if there is a blood issue; like jaundice. Some babies may develop jaundice, a yellow discolouration during the first week of life. Jaundice is caused by the build-up of bilirubin, which is a by-product of red blood cell metabolism. The levels are higher during the first three days and stabilize within one week.

However, babies who cannot process bilirubin may develop hyperbilirubinemia. This is thought not be a common condition, but toxic levels of bilirubin is known to cause permanent brain injury associated with cerebral palsy, hearing and loss of vision.

However, parents can ask their paediatricians what other blood tests are available for baby. But in our part of the world, screening for sickle cell disorder appears to be of high importance so that treatment/management can commence early enough.

Metabolic Screening
This test was developed for babies who were unable to digest the protein, phenilketonuria (PKU). The babies were placed on special diets to prevent severe disability or mental retardation. Blood tests are taken when babies are 24 hours old and samples analyzed. If the result is positive, there may be more tests. With diagnosis comes treatment and parents’ education, which is given by experts. Fortunately, the inability to process this protein is said to be uncommon in babies.

Test for Hearing
Some babies are born with loss of hearing, experts say, although it is stressed that not all babies born with loss of hearing grow to be deaf. But early detection and treatment is recommended in order to help him build his language skills and not become handicapped in making relationships.

Where such tests are available, they are given to those who are considered to be at high risk; those who were born with hearing loss have been known to have no known risk factors. But the criteria were that they had relatives with hearing loss, intrauterine or post-natal infection.

The test involves non-invasive painless screening that is done on the first or second day of life by Otoacoustic Emission or Auditory Brain Stem Response Tests. Earphones put sound into a sleeping baby’s ear canal to record responses from hair cells or hearing nerves. Before this test was developed, parents only sought for help when a child was about three years old, a time when his language development has been affected.

But you can test your child’s hearing where this test is not available during the first one or one and half year of life. Children learn to speak because they hear other people speak; they listen when people talk, so you can watch your child’s language development to know if he is making a progress.

Between five and six months he should be able to establish a form of vocalization although you may not understand what she says. These are simple tests worked out by experts to help you test your child’s hearing.

Birth to six months: the baby is startled by a loud noise and knows his mother’s voice. Three to Six months: he can react to sound by turning his head and eyes to know where the noise is coming from; he can respond to his mother’s voice and enjoys playing with noisy toys.

Six to 10 months: He answers his name, responds to the ring of the phone and understands simple words like ‘no’ ‘yes’ and ‘bye-bye.’
Ten to 15 months: The child can look at or point to familiar objects or people. When prompted, she can imitate simple words and sounds.

Fifteen to Eighteen months: He can follow clearly spoken direction and knows a few simple words. But at 18 months, many children know enough words to make them able to understood.

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