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CAre for Newborns

Testing for infant heart defects

  • Danika, who was born at home in August 2013 to Robin and Luke Avis of Peterborouh, got her circulation screening during a home visit from midwife Sarah Bay.

    Danika, who was born at home in August 2013 to Robin and Luke Avis of Peterborouh, got her circulation screening during a home visit from midwife Sarah Bay.

  • Danika, who was born at home in August 2013 to Robin and Luke Avis of Peterborouh, got her circulation screening during a home visit midwife Sarah Bay conducted.

    Danika, who was born at home in August 2013 to Robin and Luke Avis of Peterborouh, got her circulation screening during a home visit midwife Sarah Bay conducted.

  • peterborough, sarah bay, mid-wife, health

    peterborough, sarah bay, mid-wife, health

  • Danika, who was born at home in August 2013 to Robin and Luke Avis of Peterborouh, got her circulation screening during a home visit from midwife Sarah Bay.
  • Danika, who was born at home in August 2013 to Robin and Luke Avis of Peterborouh, got her circulation screening during a home visit midwife Sarah Bay conducted.
  • peterborough, sarah bay, mid-wife, health

A new simple test on infant circulation, aiming to save the lives of babies, is easing its way into the Monadnock region. The test is simple, painless and cheap, and has been mandated by a state law that was quietly passed over a year ago.

Senate Bill 348-FN, also known as Parker’s Law, was passed in May 2012. It requires that all newborns be screened by pulse oximetry for critical congenital heart defects starting in August 2012, yet most babies in this region are missing out on this simple test.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of congenital heart defects — meaning defects that were present at birth — are considered critical to the health and well-being of the newborn. While these conditions are typically large malformations of the heart, an infant may not show outside symptoms for days or even weeks, despite lack of oxygen to critical organs. The aim of this screening is to catch, diagnose and treat these babies before irreversible damage is done.

Who should be screened?

All babies should be screened, regardless of symptoms, at or after 24 hours of life.

How is it done?

The tool used to screen babies is a simple oxygen saturation monitor that all health care providers who deliver or care for newborns should already have at hand. A simple Band-Aid-like monitor is placed on the right hand and then left foot for a few minutes each to measure blood oxygen levels. As long as the oxygen saturation is normal, and levels for the hand and foot are equal, the screen result is considered normal. The test can be repeated hourly a few times before concern is raised. Babies actually test better when alert, so unlike the hearing screen, which requires a quiet baby, it can be performed at any point regardless of the infant’s state of rest or activity.

Who does the screening?

Whoever does your initial newborn care should do the screening. Typically it is done prior to hospital discharge by the nurses or, for those who deliver out of hospital, your midwife should do it at the one or three day postpartum home visit.

What should I do if my baby was not screened?

Though the more severe cases will likely show outward signs or stress — which include labored breathing, blue coloring around the lips or face, poor weight gain or listlessness — by a few weeks of age, it is never too late to do the screening to rule out any minor issues. Ask your pediatrician to screen your baby at her or his next regularly scheduled checkup. For more information, see pulseoxscreening.org or visit the CDC’s site at www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/pediatricgenetics/pulse.html.

Sarah Bay is a nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife caring for women of all ages. Her office is located in downtown Peterborough, with care also available in Milford. For more information, call 801-9485 or visit www.sarahbaymidwife.com.

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