Now that you’ve just given birth to your baby, you’re likely filled with a range of emotions. You may be relieved that the labor and delivery are over and feel an overwhelming sense of love and wonder as you hear your baby’s first cries. Some practitioners allow you to have your infant placed on your chest immediately after birth. Warm blankets are placed over you and your baby to keep the baby’s body temperature from dropping. Most birth centers and hospitals will allow you to hold your baby in this position for up to one hour, but time limits can vary.
After the initial bonding period, there are standard tests that all babies have to undergo even if you give birth at home. During the first few days of your infant’s life, some after-birth tests are necessary to assess the state of your baby’s health. Here are some of the evaluations you can expect.
The APGAR is the first after-birth test your baby will receive. Most times, the practitioner will perform this test before you notice since it’s simply an assessment of the way your baby sounds and looks. Even though the APGAR is classified as a test, it’s actually an observation.
A score is assigned for each sign at the one and five-minute marks after birth. If the practitioner notices any problems with the baby, another APGAR test is done at 10 minutes. A normal APGAR score is between 7 and 10. If the score is between 4 and 7, the baby may require some resuscitation. An APGAR score of 3 or lower means the baby needs immediate resuscitation.
Measuring Weight and Length
Your baby’s weight and length will be checked shortly after birth but different facilities perform these tests at different times.
Babies have a brief period of alertness before they enter a deep sleep, so some parents may want to use this time to bond with their infant. If this is the case, the parents will request that the weight and length check be performed at least one hour after the baby is born. This phase of after-birth testing is more flexible if you have your baby in a birth center or at home. Speak to your midwife or doctor about the protocol and how these regulations fit with the preferences in your birth plan. \
Eye Drop and Vitamin K Administration
Silver nitrate was once the standard solution for preventing infection in babies. The substance was administered in eye drops that caused the baby’s eyes to burn. These days, state laws enforce the use of erythromycin antibiotic drops for babies since they don’t cause irritation. The eye drops should be administered within two hours of the baby’s birth to prevent eye infections that can lead to the loss of sight.
Vitamin K is usually administered via injection not long after your baby is born. It is common for newborns to be deficient in this vitamin; if babies don’t receive the injection as early as possible, they are at risk for VKDB, or vitamin K deficiency bleeding which can be severe or fatal. Parents can also opt for oral vitamin K supplements, but these are not recommended for premature babies or infants with specific medical conditions. Oral vitamin K requires several doses or the course of weeks or months and is not as effective as a vitamin K injection.
Newborn screening is the umbrella term for a series of tests that screen your infant for a number of conditions and diseases, including phenylketonuria, also known as PKU. Each state requires newborn screening for the early detection of medical issues but state regulations vary concerning what newborn screening must entail.
Babies are usually screen for between 50 and 60 conditions such as thalassemia, galactosemia, sickle cell disease, and cystic fibrosis. Blood is drawn from the infant’s heel for these tests. The results are only accurate if the infant has consumed a diet that contains phenylalanine in infant formula or human milk for a 24-hour period. This is why newborn screening should take place at least one day after the baby is born.
Additionally, you can expect to have your baby tested for vision and hearing loss. These tests vary depending on where your child is born, but if they aren’t administered after birth then you should get these tests done right away. Additionally, problems like hearing loss or poor vision can develop or occur afterwards due to external factors, so regular testing is important especially when your child is old enough to attend school. There are preventative things you can use to help preserve your child’s sight and hearing, like infant sunglasses and baby ear muffs.
Many medical facilities will perform newborn screening before you are discharged and request that you return in seven days so your baby can undergo the test again. To see if your state requires repeat newborn screening, check babysfirsttest.org.
Many nations require that your baby get the hepatitis vaccine. You can start the vaccination at birth or at your baby’s two-month checkup. Speak with your pediatrician to determine which option is best for your newborn.
Additional Tests or Procedures
There are several other procedures you should either do routinely or occasionally for your baby. These include blood sugar testing and hearing tests. Be sure you do your research and talk to your pediatrician so you have all the information you need to provide your baby with the best care.