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What Is Newborn Screening? Know All About It

Newborn screening is a comprehensive screening test done for your baby to detect the presence of over hundred medical conditions that can be hidden at birth. Its primary objective is early detection and intervention of treatable inborn errors of metabolism.

What Is Newborn Screening? Know All About It

Newborn screening is done at the time of birth

Imagine being a parent, what would be that one thing that you would like to give to your child? Surely every parent, if given a chance, would like to give the world to their children. However, if it is just one thing, it would definitely be good health to last a lifetime. But for that, wouldn't a healthy start be an absolute necessity? Let us find out. 

With a population standing at 1.3 billion, India is currently the second most populated country in the world, with a fertility rate of 2.24 births per woman (2017). Naturally, with a population so huge, it becomes rather difficult for India, and other countries with similar backgrounds, when it comes to effective fulfillment of their basic medical needs. In this article, Dr. Vivek Jain and Dr Kshama Pimpalgaonka explains what is newborn screening and what are its benefits.


What is newborn screening ?

Speaking of preventive treatment, one of the best methods is Newborn Screening (NBS), which is a comprehensive screening test done for your baby to detect the presence of over hundred medical conditions that can be hidden at birth. Its primary objective is early detection and intervention of treatable inborn errors of metabolism, and also to establish incidence of these disorders in this part of the world. As a matter of fact, 5.75% of mental retardation in childhood was shown to be due to metabolic disorder. Early detection and treatment of numerous such illnesses can help prevent intellectual and physical disabilities and life-threatening illnesses in babies.

Also read: Mums-To-Be, Your Gut May Hold The Answer To Autism In Newborns

Importance and Benefits of NBS

At the current times, one of the growing concerns in India is infant mortality, and there is definitely a pressing need for something to go to the depths and check out the cause of the ever-increasing infant mortality rate across the country. Genetic disorders in newborn children have been a rather common sight. According to a report by World Health Organization (WHO), birth defects account for 7% of all neonatal mortality. In India itself, it has been stated that, every 64th newborn out of a thousand live births is a potential inheritor of a genetic disorder.

Also read: When Is The Best Time To Give Water To Your Newborn

A newborn screening is widely used as a preventive method to cut down infant mortality. It helps new parents detect possible unidentified health issues in the baby. A lot of the signs and symptoms of a probable metabolic disorder may not be obvious right at the birth of a baby. In such cases, a newborn screening helps in early diagnosis and intervention. An expanded screening helps in identifying that 1% of the babies, and also helps them to receive early diagnosis and treatment.

In addition to that, babies with undetected metabolic disorders can proceed to develop serious and lifelong complications in the future, including physical, as well as intellectual disability.

Also read: 4 Reasons Why Your Newborn Isn't Sleeping At Night

Lack of Awareness in India

Newborn Screening has evolved from a simple blood or urine screening test to a more comprehensive and complex screening system capable of detecting over 51 different metabolic conditions. In contrast to countries like New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, etc. with 94-100 percent coverage, India stands with a bare minimum of one percent total screening coverage. However, tables can be turned by spreading right information about the need of newborn screenings.

(Dr. Vivek Jain, Additional Director & Head, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh Neonatology)


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(Dr. Kshama Pimpalgaonkar, NBS Expert, Section Head for Biochemistry, SRL Diagnostics)

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