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Newborn Screening Program (NBS)

The Ohio Department of Health’s Newborn Screening (NBS) program identifies newborn babies who may be at risk for some rare but serious health problems.  Babies with such rare health problems can look healthy at birth. If problems are found, early treatment may help prevent serious problems such as mental retardation or, in some cases, death.

Ohio’s law requires newborn screening to be done on all babies born in the state. Ohio’s law also requires the hospital staff or the birth attendant to provide the parents with the educational brochure, Why must my baby be screened.

Before the baby leaves the hospital, a few drops of blood will be taken from the baby’s heel. The blood sample is sent to Ohio’s newborn screening lab. Newborn screening needs to be done at least 24 hours after birth and before the baby is five days of age. If the baby is not born in a hospital, the midwife, doctor or local health department will help to collect the blood sample before the baby reaches five days of age. The only reason for refusal recognized by the state is a religious objection. 

In summer 2013, the NBS program expanded to 36 disorders. The latest expansion includes screening for Severe Comined Immuno Defiencies. Ohio now screens for nearly all health problems recommended by the March of Dimes.  

The results of the baby’s newborn screening testing will be sent to the birth hospital and to the baby’s health professional.  Parents are advised to make sure both the birth hospital and health professional have the correct address and phone number to be reached if needed. Parents should ask about these results during the baby’s first health checkup.

An abnormal result on the newborn screen does not always mean the baby has a disorder.  The baby will require further testing, ordered by the primary care provider, to find out if the baby does have one of the disorders.  These tests should be done right away.  Should the disease be confirmed, there are treatment options available. Treatment may consist of special diet, antibiotics, other medications, education or combinations of the above.

The baby will need to be retested if the baby leaves the hospital before 24 hours or if there is a problem with the blood sample. Parents should arrange to have the sample collected and sent without delay.

The overall goal of the NBS program is to improve the quality of life of the baby through early diagnosis and treatment. Time is a very important element in this process. Cooperation and timely action by the parents and the medical care providers will help all babies get a healthy start at life.

Last Updated: July 29, 2013