Checkups are key to good health for everyone, including babies. In fact, they're so important, a newborn's checkup happens just one minute after delivery.
This checkup gives babies what's called an Apgar score. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this score helps determine whether a baby may need any extra medical care. Apgar scores are based on the baby's heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response and color. A score of 7 or higher suggests a baby is very healthy. But a lower score doesn't always mean that your baby has a problem. The apgar score is calculated again five minutes after birth, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 98 percent of babies core a 7 or higher by this time.
Within the first day of life, your baby will get a complete head-to-toe checkup, and usually after 24 hours, he or she will also have screening tests on a small blood sample (a few drops from a prick of the heel). These newborn screening tests can find health problems that are treatable but may not be immediately evident. Fortunately, most babies receive a clean bill of health, says the March of Dimes.
One test looks for an inherited disorder (phenylketonuria, or PKU) in which babies are undable to process an amino acid called phenylalanine, which is present in most foods. When phenylalanine builds up in a baby's blood, it can damage brain tissue.
Another test looks for a disorder in which babies are born with too little thryroid hormone. This condition can slow growth and brain development. Fortunately, once identifed early, both of these disorders can be treated before problems occur. Doctors may test for other disorders and do hearing tests as well. All of the tests are intended to help give your baby a good start in life. If you have questions about these tests, ask. You'll feel more comfortable in you understand what is being done and why.