Routine tests and care for your baby
Once your baby enters the world you become one of the most important people in their life. There is extensive support available for all mothers but sometimes this can be overwhelming and you may just want a simple guide to provide non-judgemental and helpful information to help you through this life-changing time.
There are certain routine tests for a newborn that are necessary to ensure your baby is healthy and has no obvious medical problems. These include the initial Apgar score that measures vital signs such as breathing, complexion, heart rate and muscle tone. The midwife will do this test as soon as you give birth and it is very unobtrusive and quick. Your baby will then be weighed and have its head circumference measured, which will be recorded so that your health visitor can monitor changes each time they visit you. These measurements will be entered on the developmental charts in your baby’s Personal Child Health Record, or ‘Red Book’, which your health visitor will give you when your baby is about ten days old. The book allows you to track your baby’s progress as he or she grows.
Another small but necessary test is a heel prick which allows the midwife to take a small sample of blood to check for certain disorders including phenylketonuria, which is an enzyme deficiency that means your baby cannot break down amino acids, cystic fibrosis, and thyroid disorders. Your baby may feel some discomfort with the heel prick but they will recover very quickly.
After a period of around 24 hours, when you and your baby have had time to bond and become used to one another, a paediatrician will perform some more routine tests on your baby. Checks on your baby’s reflexes by moving their hips and legs will be carried out, which cause little or no discomfort to your baby and are completed very quickly. Your baby will also be checked to make sure they are not dehydrated, can feed properly and have the necessary grasping and tendon reflexes. A final check will be done on your baby’s spine to make sure there are no problems and on the palms of your baby’s hand to ensure they have the correct palmer creases.
Your baby’s heart, eyes and ears will also be checked to make sure there are no problems, so you can be assured that all aspects of your baby’s health has been checked and monitored by either a midwife or a paediatrician. If, however, you have any further concerns it is perfectly natural to want to make a further appointment with your doctor or health visitor. The next set of routine tests and checks will happen at six-eight weeks when you have ascertained a proper routine and understand your baby’s rhythms and needs.
Caring for your baby once you have left the security of the hospital can be very daunting, and this is why it is important to remember that there is a wealth of information and support available for you as a mother.