July 11, 2006 -- It's becoming more common for U.S. babies to be offered most recommended newborn screening tests, but there's still room for improvement, says the March of Dimes.
The March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving babies' health by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. It backs newborn screening for 29 disorders, including certain metabolic conditions and hearing problems.
Many newborn screening tests are done by taking a few drops of blood, usually from a baby's heel, before hospital discharge. If blood tests come back positive, the baby is retested and given treatment, if needed.
According to the March of Dimes, state laws and rules require that nearly two-thirds of all babies born in the U.S. in 2006 will be offered screening for more than 20 potentially life-threatening disorders -- almost double the rate as in 2005.
However, only Washington, D.C. and five states -- Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia -- currently require all newborns to get the full set of 29 tests recommended by the March of Dimes.
Several states made a big push in the past year in their newborn screening programs. For instance, Kentucky only required six tests in 2005 and now requires 28 tests. Utah added 21 required tests to its roster. California, Florida, and Washington, D.C. all added 20 required tests.
Parents may choose to opt out of some newborn tests, the March of Dimes says.