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What It Is

The state Newborn Screening Program helps determine if a baby has certain health problems. A healthy-looking newborn can have serious inborn errors of metabolism or genetic disorders that cannot be detected without specific screening. Left undetected and untreated, these diseases can lead to slow growth, blindness, brain damage or possibly death.

Your newborn should be screened 24 hours after birth or before leaving the hospital. The screening process involves a collection of blood from your baby's heel, pulse oximetry for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) and hearing.

Watch Save Babies One Foot at a Time for more information on the heel stick for the newborn screening. Provided by the Save Babies Through Screening Foundation.

Watch Pulse Ox for Newborns for more information on the pulse oximetry.

Newborn Screening Brochure

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 What you need to do before baby comes  

How will I get the screening results?

Your baby's doctor will receive a screening report and notify you of the results. You have the right and are encouraged to ask your doctor or nurse to explain the screening process and provide the results to you.

First, make sure your infant has a blood specimen drawn before he or she leaves the hospital.
Be sure the hospital has accurate and current contact information for you including:

  • The doctor the baby will be seeing after going home
  • Parent name, address and phone number
  • Emergency name and telephone number (should be someone other than the baby's parents telephone number)

If your infant was born at home, make sure your midwife, health care provider or health department conducts the screenings.

If you have questions about newborn screening and your infant's health, contact your infant's doctor or the Department for Public Health Newborn Screening Program.

Act quickly if your doctor contacts you about repeat tests or the need for a medical evaluation.

The Parent Resources section provides links to brochures and information on the diseases included in Kentucky's Newborn Screening. 

Newborn Screening Results

An abnormal test means your baby may have one of the health problems tested for in this screening. A negative test means your baby probably does not have any of these problems. Because this test is a screening and not a diagnostic test, there is a chance of false negative or false positive results. Your baby's doctor may want to repeat the test or perform other tests to further verify screening results.

If your baby's newborn screening is positive, your baby's doctor will talk with you about the next steps to take. You may be referred to a specialist for more testing and genetic counseling. If your baby is then diagnosed with a disease, treatment will begin to prevent or minimize health repercussions.

Repeat and additional testing

Occasionally, a baby may need additional lab work. When this is needed, the Newborn Screening Program will send a letter to the parent and the doctor.  The repeat screening test is performed at no charge by the baby's current doctor or local health department.

Sometimes, the Newborn Screening Program does not receive a copy of your baby's repeated results. This usually happens when a baby had a different doctor listed at the hospital other than the one your baby is seeing now.

If you get a letter asking you to repeat your baby's newborn screening test, act quickly:

  • First contact your baby's doctor.
  • Explain to your doctor, you have received a letter to have a repeat newborn screening for your child and ask for a screening appointment as soon as possible.
  • Take the letter from the Newborn Screening Program with you and give it to the doctor. This way the doctor will know what is needed and how to send the results to the program.
  • The Newborn Screening Program does not have results as to why you received the letter.  Only your doctor has access to this information.

Special Considerations for Repeating the Newborn Screening

The newborn screening is most accurate when the baby's blood is taken 24 hours or later after birth.  If your baby's blood was taken sooner than 24 hours after birth, a second sample will be taken.

However, if your baby was born prematurely or needed special care after birth such as blood transfusion or antibiotics, the timing of repeat testing may be different.

Kentucky Newborn Screening Law

Kentucky law requires all babies to undergo newborn screening before leaving the hospital after birth. Baby's not born in a hospital or other health care institution must be tested between 24 and 48 hours after birth.  Kentucky Revised Statute and Kentucky Administrative Regulation are linked under Additional Information heading on this page.