Immediately after birth, your baby will be evaluated through an Apgar score to determine his or her state of health. This routine test measures a baby’s responsiveness and vital signs.

Apgar is a quick test performed on a baby usually at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. The 1-minute score determines how well the baby tolerated the birthing process. The 5-minute score tells the doctor how well the baby is doing outside the mother’s womb.

Five factors are checked:

  • heart rate
  • breathing
  • colour
  • muscle tone
  • reflex response

The APGAR Score is a good tool to assess how the baby is doing at the time of birth, but it does not necessarily show how well the baby did before birth or how it will do in the future.

Heel Prick Test

This is performed on all new babies. It is a screening that detects five rare serious disorders, all of which can be treated successfully if picked up quickly after birth.

The process involves taking a sample of blood from the baby’s heel. The timing of the sample is critical, usually on day four if the baby is bottle fed and day 5 if breast fed. It can be carried out by your public health nurse or in your hospital. Once collected the blood is then sent to a central screening center where it is tested immediately. If there are any abnormalities, your hospital and GP will be contacted urgently so the treatment can begin immediately.

Physical examination

Your newborn baby will be given a routine exam by a Consultant Pediatrician usually within the first 48 hours after birth.  In certain circumstances, it may be done earlier. This is a very important examination as it is the first time that your baby will undergo a complete physical examination from head to toe.  The purpose of the examination is to establish that your baby is healthy and normal both internally and externally. Detecting problems early gives the best chance of effective treatment.

Some of the things the doctor will do are:

  • Listen to your baby’s heart;
  • Examine his/her hips;
  • Measure the baby’s head circumference and length.

Whilst your baby will have a very thorough examination at this time, please be aware that not all conditions affecting infants can be detected at this stage. Once discharged from the hospital please seek medical advice or attention if you are not happy about any aspect of your baby’s wellbeing.

Hearing Screen Test

 The HSE New-born Hearing Screening Programme is available nationwide for all babies. One to two babies in every 1,000 born in Ireland are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears. Most babies born with a hearing loss are born into families with no history of hearing loss so it is important to screen all babies as early as possible. The hearing screen will usually be carried out while the baby is settled or sleeping at the mother’s bedside. Any baby who does not have a clear response from the screen will be seen for a full audiological (hearing) assessment at an Audiology Clinic (hearing clinic).