• Newborn Screening Guide: The Tests, Cost and Why It's Essential

    This newborn screening test must be conducted within 24 hours after birth.
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
  • Newborn Screening Guide: The Tests, Cost and Why It's Essential
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  • Every first week of October, the Philippines celebrates Newborn Screening Week, and we highly encourage pregnant women and new moms to make sure they get this essential first test for their newborns. We've listed below its importance and cost based on information and data provided by the Newborn Screening Reference Center (NSRC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

    What is newborn screening

    Newborn screening is a blood test, taken within 24 hours of birth, to check if your baby has been born with a disorder. According to pediatrician and internist, Dr. Rosanne Sugay, most of the disorders detected in newborns are initially chemical problems in the body that, at first, don't have physical manifestations.

    Most babies with the metabolic disorders included in the newborn screening look “normal” at birth. Hence, you may not know your baby has a condition unless he’s tested or, worse, until the condition has irreversibly affected her health.

    Growth and mental retardation, brain damage and death are some of the consequences newborn screening can avoid with early detection and, subsequently, early treatment and management.

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    Your newborn screening options

    Option 1: Newborn screening

    Tests for six disorders in infants

    • Congenital Hypothyroidism
    • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia  Galactosemia 
    • Phenylketonuria 
    • Glucose-6Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency (G6PD)
    • Maple Syrup Urine Disease 

    The possible effects of these six congenital disorders in a child are severe. Congenital Hypothyroidism, for example, a condition where the thyroid hormone is lacking or absent can cause growth and mental retardation if it is not detected and treated within two weeks of birth. Galactosemia and Phenylketonuria cause liver and brain damage. Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia and Maple Syrup Urine Disease can lead to death.  

    Out of all the conditions in the newborn screening panel of disorders, G6PD is the most common with a prevalence of 1 in 56 babies. Infants with G6PD must not be exposed to toxic substances, and early management is crucial (read more about this condition here).  

    Option 2: Expanded newborn screening
    Tests for 28 conditions including the six disorders in Option 1

    • the additional 22 include: hemoglobinopathies, disorders of amino acid and organic acid metabolism, disorders of fatty acid oxidation, disorders of carbohydrate metabolism, disorders of biotin metabolism and cystic fibrosis. Find the full list of all the conditions here.  
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    How to get the test for your newborn

    Coverage
    Newborn screening is made available for every Filipino child under Republic Act No. 9288 or the “Newborn Screening Act of 2004.” PhilHealth provides coverage through the Newborn Care Package, which also includes administration of vitamin K, the first dose of the Hepa B vaccine, umbilical cord care, eye prophylaxis, and thermal care. Members can apply for this package by submitting a filled-up claims form (Claim Form 2) within 60 calendar days from the hospital discharge date. Find the form here and instructions on how to fill it up here

    The Newborn Care Package only allots P550 for the newborn screening procedure. It will cover the “basic” newborn screening, which screens six conditions. The expanded newborn screening, which screens for 28 disorders, approximately costs P1,500. Parents will have to pay the remaining P950 out of their pocket. 

    Where to go
    Newborn screening facilities are widely available in many health facilities nationwide including hospitals, lying-in clinics, birthing homes, and rural health units. For moms residing in Metro Manila, there are 146 newborn screening facilities in NCR so it’s very likely that your preferred hospital or clinic has it. Find the most recent list of health facilities offering the service here.  

    How it’s done and what to expect after
    Newborn screening tests are done within 24 hours after birth and only require a few drops of blood from your baby. You will have to wait for at least a week for the results to come back. For conditions that test positive, your baby must be brought to a doctor immediately for confirmatory testing. Treatment and management will follow if your baby is diagnosed with the condition. 

    According to RA 9288, a newborn placed in an intensive care unit can be exempted from immediate screening and instead be tested within seven days after birth. A parent may also refuse the newborn screening provided he or she acknowledges the risks involved by signing a refusal form provided by the health facility.

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