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The Extra Test We're Adding to our Newborn Screen

I don’t know how to say this nicely, but I’m a bit of a worrier. When I’m not doing anything, I tend to drift off into my worries and what ifs. This is not a new thing, please do not be alarmed, I’m not losing my grip (it’s been lost a long time). And so it should come as no surprise that I want every! test! ever! to make sure that my son is healthy. Well, I want every easy, inexpensive and non-invasive test.

My husband…does not feel exactly the same way. We hadn’t talked about a lot of specifics, but I know that as a doctor, he very much trusts his fellow physicians to do a thorough exam and catch any and all problems. It’s not that I don’t trust doctors, it’s that I know even a great doctor can miss things and that sometimes, there aren’t any signs immediately at birth.

Which is why I found some research to support my latest cause, and I was finally able to convince my husband to add one test to our newborn screen.

In November an article was published in the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics that reported about a recent investigation whose conclusion was that pulse oximetry (yep the little stickers with the bright red dot, that doesn’t hurt and takes like 12 seconds) is both sensitive and cost effective in detecting Critical Congenital Heart Defects. These are extra tricky because in the first few days of life, most infants don’t display any signs, even to the best doctors. Their systems are so fresh that they can compensate for these defects and so these babies often appear healthy, pink and ready to go home. The only sign that there’s something going on is a low oxygen saturation, which can really only been seen with the pulse ox.

I know it probably makes me overprotective, but to me, it just seems like this test, which is not just harmless, but also really quick and cheap, is a nice way to get an extra little peace of mind before we leave the hospital. I’m not a proponent of full body scans or actively looking for problems, but when it comes to these heart defects, the reality of their severity is enough to make me overprotective for sure.

I know that parenting is basically going to be a treasure trove of what ifs, so I think that with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ blessing, I’m going to add one simple test to remove one big, scary what if from my mind.

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