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Supporting you through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood
Baby health concerns
important medical information
Newborn blood tests
After your baby is born you will be asked to give consent for him to have a screening test. These blood tests are very important as they are sometimes the only way to detect certain problems. Of course it is your choice, but if you decide not to have the tests and there is a problem then delayed diagnosis could result in permanent damage to your baby.
These tests, commonly known as the heel prick tests or Guthrie test are usually done when your baby is about five days' old by your midwife. She will take several drops of blood from your baby's heel and use it to fill in some small circles on a special card; the card will then be sent to the lab to test for Phenylketonuria, Congenital Hypothyroidism and Cystic Fibrosis.
Phenylketonuria (PKU)
Babies born with the condition called PKU are unable to digest a substance called Phenylalanine. This substance is found in everyday foods such as milk, meat, fish, cheese and eggs, therefore it is important to detect the condition as early as possible.
If it is not detected then Phenylalanine would accumulate in the baby's blood resulting in severe irreversible damage to the baby's brain.
If the condition is detected the baby will be seen by a paediatrician as soon as possible. Further tests will be carried out before a final diagnosis is confirmed. The baby will be given a special diet which will help him develop normally.
Congenital Hypothyroidism (CHT)
'Congenital' is a term used when a baby is born with a condition. Hypothyroidism means that the baby is not producing enough of the hormone: Thyroxine, because the thyroid gland is missing or not working properly. Thyroxine is vital for normal physical and mental development and a lack of this hormone can result in slower than normal growth and severe learning difficulties if left undetected. However if the screening test is carried out and the condition is detected and diagnosed then it can be easily treated by giving thyroxine by mouth which will help the baby to develop normally.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
Cystic Fibrosis is a serious inherited condition that severely affects the pancreas and the lungs causing poor digestion and chest infections. If it is detected early then treatment may help children to maintain good nutrition and minimise chest infections leading to improved quality of life.
The screening process for cystic fibrosis is more complicated than for the other conditions and it may take longer for this result and although the majority of affected babies will be picked up by the screening test it should be noted that on rare occasions it will fail to identify a baby with cystic fibrosis.
If the screening test detects cystic fibrosis a healthcare professional will contact the parents to ask them to bring the baby to hospital. Further tests may be required before a final diagnosis is offered and an appointment will be made for the parents to see a genetic counsellor.
Blood tests are very
important as they are
sometimes the only way to
detect certain problems
It is safe and good for
your baby to lie on his
front to play when awake
Cot Death - how to reduce the risk
Cot death is perhaps one of the most feared and confusing issues for every new mother. It is the most common cause of death in babies over 1 month old claiming more lives than meningitis, leukaemia and transport accidents put together. Though the rates are falling, as more mothers are made aware of how to reduce the risk, there are still seven babies lost every week to cot death in the UK.
So what exactly is it? Cot death is the term used to describe an infant death that is sudden and unexpected. The medical term for this is 'sudden unexpected death in infancy' (SUDI). After a post-mortem examination less than half of cot deaths can be explained, with a cause of death being identified. Causes may include accidents, infection, congenital abnormality or metabolic disorder. Those cases that remain unexplained are usually registered as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Researchers believe that there likely to be undiscovered causes and in some cases a combination of factors that have affected the baby at a vulnerable stage of development.
Cot death can occur any where at any time, though most cases occur during a period of sleep in the cot. The babies die peacefully and don't suffer any pain or distress. Any baby can be affected however some are at more risk that others; premature and low birth weight babies, boys and later babies born to mothers who are still young.
Cot death is uncommon during the first month, it is most common in babies who are two months old, and after this the risk reduces as the baby grows. 90% of cot deaths happen in the first six months and very few occur after 1 year.
Reducing the risk
Place your baby on the back to sleep right from the start, this is the safest position and they are not more likely to choke. From about 5 or 6 months your baby may want to roll over, you should still place him down on his back but don't prevent him from rolling over. Babies under 5 months can be gently rolled back on to their back if you find them on their front but don't feel that you must keep checking them constantly through the night. It is safe and good for your baby to lie on his front to play when awake.
Cut out smoking during pregnancy - fathers too. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of cot death, the less you smoke the lower the risk but it is best not to smoke at all.
Don't let any one smoke in the same room as your baby. Exposing your baby to cigarette smoke after birth also increases the risk of cot death; ask any visitors who smoke to go outside as it is best if no one smokes in the house. Don't take your baby to smoky places and if you or your partner smoke don't share a bed with your baby.
Don't let your baby get to hot (or too cold). Over heating can increase the risk of cot death be careful not to use too much bedding or clothing or to let the room get too hot. If your baby is wearing a nappy, vest and baby gro then room temperature of about 18ºC is comfortable with 2 blankets or 1 folded blanket. If your room is warmer than this reduce the number of blankets even to just one sheet which may be suitable in the summer months. If your room is colder increase the number of blankets, lower than 14ºC is too cold. Babies should never sleep with a hot water bottle, electric blanket, next to a radiator, fire or in direct sunlight. You should remove hats and outer clothing as soon as you come indoors or in to a warm car, bus or train, even if you need to wake your baby to do so.
Keep your baby's head uncovered - place you baby in the feet to foot position. To prevent you baby rolling down under his covers put him in his cot or pram with his feet at the foot. His covers should be no higher than his shoulders and should be tucked in so that they cannot slip over your baby's head. Your baby should sleep on a well fitting, clean mattress that is flat and firm and covered with a single sheet. Don't use duvets, quilts, baby nests, wedges, bedding rolls or pillows. Keep your baby's cot in your room for the first six months. Don't sleep on the sofa with your baby and if you or your partner smoke, take drugs or medication that will make you sleep more heavily, have been drinking alcohol or are extremely tire don't share a bed with your baby.
If your baby is unwell seek advice promptly. Babies often have minor illnesses that you don't need to worry about, make sure that he drinks plenty of fluids and id not too hot. However if the illness becomes more serious it is important to seek medical attention, this is often difficult to judge but if your baby shows any of the following symptoms seek medical advice promptly.
Seek medical advice PROMPLY for the following...
A high pitched or weak cry, is less responsive, is much less active or more floppy than usual.
Looks very pale all over, grunts with each breath, seems to be working hard to breathe when you look at his chest and tummy.
Takes less than a third of usual fluids, passes much less urine than usual, vomits green fluid, or passes blood in his stools.
Has a high fever or is sweating a lot.
Seek URGENT medical attention if your baby...
Stops breathing or goes blue.
Is unresponsive and shows no awareness of what is going on.
Has glazed eyes and does not focus on anything.
Can not be woken.
Has a fit. Even if your baby recovers with out medical attention you must still contact your doctor.
Cot death is rare and although most new parents tend to worry about it don't let it worrying spoil those precious first months. As research continues more and more is understood about cot death and since campaigns to help parents reduce the risk began in 1991 the number of cases has reduced by over 70%.
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