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Know-how: Blood Spot Test

This blood test, taken from all newborn babies, checks for serious conditions which may need urgent treatment

Posted: 25 February 2008
by Laura Lee Davies

If you have had a baby before, you may have come across the Blood Spot test when it was referred to as the Guthrie Test. (It is also described as the 'heel prick test'.)

What is the Blood Spot Test?
In the few days after your baby's birth your midwife will take a small amount of blood from your baby's heel, to send for testing.
This test screens for any potentially serious conditions that were not identified during pregnancy.
The reason for testing so early is that treatment for any of these conditions can begin immediately, and this may help prevent the condition developing further.
The conditions which this test looks for are:
Phenylketonuria (PKU)
Congenital hypothyroidism
Sickle cell disorders
Cystic fibrosis (CF)

How the Blood Spot Test is taken?
The midwife will prick your baby's heel with the smallest of points, and then squeeze small drops of blood onto a special card, which soaks up the samples. The card is then used to check for rare abnormalities.
In most cases these tests prove negative, in which case you won't hear anything further. If your baby tests positive for any of the conditions looked for, you will be notified immediately.
Although this test is given to all babies, the chances of a positive test are very slim.
Your baby may feel a small pin prick but comforting through cuddles or breastfeeding will quickly soothe him or her. The mark is small and your midwife will advise you about suitable after care (if any is needed).

When is the Blood Spot test taken?
The Blood Spot test is usually taken about a week after your baby was born.
The visiting midwife can do this simple test at your home; there is no need to make an appointment at the clinic or GP surgery to have this done.
If your baby is born prematurely, it is likely that your baby will have this test done a week after birth, and then again at 36 weeks from conception (eg, if you baby is born at 28 weeks, he or she will have an additional Blood Spot Test eight weeks after birth).

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