Exam Procedures in Newborn Babies

In addition to the physical examination, a number of preventative measures (called prophylactic treatments) and other procedures are performed in newborn babies.

  • Blood from the umbilical cord is collected and used for blood typing.
  • Erythromycin ointment is placed in the infant's eyes within 1 hour of birth to prevent gonorrheal ophthalmia (severe eye inflammation caused by gonococcus bacteria).
  • Vitamin K is administered within 4–6 hours of birth to prevent hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (bleeding caused by low levels of prothrombin, which is protein necessary for blood clotting).
  • In infants born to mothers who have hepatitis B, the hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) are administered at birth.
  • In babies born to mothers who have diabetes, babies who are preterm, or babies who are small for gestational age (SGA) or large for gestational age (LGA), rapid glucose testing is performed.
  • Red blood cell levels are measured within 6 hours of birth in newborns who are at risk for anemia.

Newborn genetic screening, which is performed prior to discharge from the hospital, varies from state to state and includes different diseases. These tests include screening for phenylketonuria (PKU; caused by a defective enzyme, may cause brain damage if not treated early) and may include screening for the following conditions:

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (inherited disorder that causes vomiting, fluid loss, and electrolyte imbalances)
  • Cystic fibrosis (common genetic disorder that affects the lungs and pancreas)
  • Galactosemia (inability to metabolize a sugar called galactose; causes failure to thrive)
  • Hypothyroidism (low levels of hormones produced by the thyroid gland)
  • Sickle cell anemia (inherited disorder that causes abnormal red blood cells)

Prior to discharge from the hospital, the nursery staff often helps the new parents establish feeding and take steps to promote bonding between the parents and the baby. New parents may be taught about newborn care, such as feeding, diapering, bathing, and care of the umbilical cord and/or circumcision.

Parents are instructed to always place the infant on his or her back to sleep and to properly use an infant safety seat every time the baby rides in a car. In most cases, parents are instructed to contact their baby's pediatrician regarding his or her first office visit.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Nov 2008

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015