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Newborn Tests and Procedures

A few routine tests and procedures are offered for your newborn the first few days after birth. You can discuss these with your doctor or midwife during your pregnancy.
Immediately after birth 

A single injection (shot) of Vitamin K is recommended for all babies in their first six hours of life, as newborns have low amounts of this vitamin. Vitamin K helps your baby's blood to clot and prevents bleeding in your baby's brain and other areas. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends all babies get a Vitamin K injection. Giving Vitamin K by mouth is less effective.

To ease any discomfort your baby might have when getting the Vitamin K injection, you can hold your baby skin-to-skin (hold baby bare chest to your bare chest) and/or feed your baby.  

For more information: Canadian Pediatric Society. Vitamin K for Newborns.

Erythromycin eye ointment is an antibiotic usually given to babies within an hour of birth to protect them against eye infections. It is given by placing a small amount of eye ointment into your baby's lower eyelids.

Eye infections caused by gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection, carry the risk of causing blindness. There is currently debate in the medical community about whether all babies should receive the eye ointment due to questions about its effectiveness. 

You can ask your maternity care provider to check during your pregnancy if you have gonorrhea. If you do, you can be treated before the baby is born, reducing the risk of passing along the infection to your baby. 

During Your Hospital Stay

A few babies are born with rare conditions which can cause problems and affect their health. The Newborn Screening Test is a blood test to screen for 24 rare but treatable conditions. Screening babies at birth allows for early care and management of these conditions. The test is usually done about 24 hours after birth.

To do the test, your baby's heel is pricked to get a small blood sample. Holding your baby skin-to-skin or feeding will ease your baby's discomfort.

If the screening test is negative, this means the chance is very low that your baby has one of these rare conditions. A positive screen means there might be a problem, and more tests are needed. If follow-up tests show your baby has one of the conditions, you will be referred quickly to a doctor to discuss treatment options.

For more information: BC Newborn Screening Program Parent Information Sheet


The Bilirubin screen is a recommended blood test to check for the level of bilirubin in your baby's blood.  Bilirubin is a yellow substance the body creates when it replaces old red blood cells. A high level of bilirubin causes jaundice, a condition which can cause your baby's skin and whites of their eyes to appear yellow. Jaundice is common in newborns and usually goes away on its own without treatment. High levels of bilirubin can be harmful if untreated.

The blood test for jaundice is usually done at the same time as the newborn screen. Feeding or holding your baby can help soothe them during the test.

If the test shows your baby has high levels of bilirubin, your baby may need follow-up tests or treatment. Treatment is done using phototherapy, where your baby is placed under a special blue light. The light helps your baby's liver to break down bilirubin. This treatment may also be offered via BC Women's home phototherapy program.

For more information: Jaundice and your newborn.


The Newborn hearing screen is a routine check of your baby's hearing. A small number of babies are born with hearing loss which can affect their speech and language skills. Without checking, there are no obvious signs to tell early on if a baby has hearing loss.

All babies in BC can have their hearing checked soon after birth. To do the test, soft sounds are played into your baby's ears while a computer measures the ears' reactions. The test is safe and doesn't hurt your baby. It is usually done in your hospital room, but can also be done at a community clinic.

You will be given the results as soon as the test is done. Some babies need to have a second hearing screen to get a clear answer. This does not mean that your baby has hearing loss.

For more information: BC Early Hearing Program


Some heart problems may be diagnosed during pregnancy using ultrasound, which creates pictures of the heart of the developing baby. However, some heart problems are not found during pregnancy. In these cases, they may be detected at birth or as the child ages. Babies with a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) may need surgery or other procedures in the first year of life.


Some heart problems lead to low levels of oxygen in a newborn and may be identified using a simple bedside test called pulse oximetry screening. This test estimates the amount of oxygen in a baby's blood. Low levels of oxygen in the blood can be a sign of CCHD. The test is usually done at least 24 hours after birth. It is painless and takes only a few minutes.

Read the CCHD handout

Watch a short video of a CCHD test


SOURCE: Newborn Tests and Procedures ( )
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