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New Gift Ideas for Newborns

Need a special gift for a baby shower? Gift certificates cover services such as newborn screening and cord blood banking.
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WebMD Feature

Need a great gift idea for a baby shower? Consider gift certificates for services that can help ensure the child's good health. You can cover costs involved in getting the newborn screened for rare diseases . You can even help pay for storage of the baby's cord blood, which can be used in treating certain diseases.

One mother's story shows just how important this can be.

When Joshua Hammer was born prematurely four years ago, everything about him seemed fine. Then one week later, his parents realized things weren't right. "He was lethargic, not responding -- we took him to the hospital that same day," says Sandi, his mother. Less than 24 hours later, Joshua was in a coma.

Another four days passed before doctors knew the diagnosis -- maple syrup urine disease (MSUD), a rare but often fatal disorder. The infant must receive treatment within 12 to 14 days after birth. The disease is characterized by increased amino acids in the blood; consequences can include low blood sugar, convulsions, vomiting and poor appetite, and mental and motor developmental delays.

For Sandi and Seth Hammer, it was a scary introduction to the world of newborn screening. At that time, New Jersey required that infants be tested for just four metabolic disorders -- phenylketonuria, hypothyroidism, galactosemia, and sickle cell anemia.

Joshua lived. "But he had a very, very difficult start," his mother tells WebMD. Her second son, Matthew, got early treatment for MSUD -- and now there's a world of difference between the two brothers. "Joshua has neurological problems. He's hospitalized more. He doesn't bounce back easily. We can see the effects of delayed diagnosis."

Actually, newborns are vulnerable to nearly 50 serious disorders, says Edwin Naylor, PhD, president of Neo Gen Screening, Inc., a private company that specializes in extensive testing of newborns.

Some of these disorders are inherited, but most aren't , he says.

All states routinely perform newborn screening for a few common metabolic disorders. But parents are becoming increasingly concerned about less-common yet deadly disorders, including cystic fibrosis, Naylor tells WebMD. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder and can be diagnosed by detecting increased amounts of salt in the sweat. It can cause abnormalities in the lungs and sinuses, in the gastrointestinal tract, and in fertility in males.

A handful of similar newborn screening services have sprouted across the country including Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Children's Hospital of Colorado in Denver.

When screening is done in the first days of an infant's life, it allows early treatment that either prevents death or at least improves the baby's outcome, Naylor tells WebMD. If there is no treatment for the disorder, the families can get genetic counseling to help them make plans.

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