Baby's first test
Shortly after your baby emerges into the world for the first time he will undergo a flurry of tests to make sure everything is okay. You may still be feeling a bit stunned at the time so here’s what you need to know about what’s happening:
In the first few minutes of life, your baby is assessed in five areas: heart rate, skin colour, muscle tone and response to stimuli. Your baby is given a score for each area and the points are added up. A normal, healthy baby will get a total Apgar score of about nine; 10 is rare, because most babies lose one point for having blueish hands and feet. The assessment is repeated a few minutes later and the scores are used to help identify babies who may have complications.
Head to toe
Your LMC (or sometimes a paediatrician) will give your baby a thorough examination. The fontanelles (soft spots in your baby’s skull), eyes, ears, gums, lips and palate are inspected. Your LMC will listen to the heart and lungs and run her hands over the chest and abdomen, checking for hernias, bowel problems and that the chest is symmetrical. She also looks at the spine, cord stump, genitals and anus as well as the size of your baby’s liver.
Your newborn will have his reflexes tested, including the Moro reflex, where he flings out his hands when startled. The way he lies is important too. Do his feet and hands sit naturally and have good muscle tone?
Babies are born with relatively low levels of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting. In rare cases infants can die of a bleeding disorder which can be prevented by a one-off vitamin K injection soon after birth. It is also offered as an oral dose.
All babies should have their hips checked. About one in 1500 babies has congenitally dislocated hips needing treatment. Many more have hips that appear clicky at birth and need a recheck later.
A heel-prick or Guthrie, test is usually taken when your baby is two to four days old. Your baby’s heel is pricked with a lancet, and the blood is dripped onto a card. each sample is tested for six to eight rare but life-threatening metabolic disorders and a range of enzyme deficiencies.
A simple, non-invasive test, during which a hand-held device is placed into your baby’s ear and his response to the sound is checked.
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