Your baby gets newborn screening tests before he leaves the hospital after birth. These tests look for rare but serious and mostly treatable health disorders that affect how the body works. Your baby’s newborn screening may include testing for certain hemoglobin disorders.
Hemoglobin disorders (also called hemoglobinopathies) are rare blood conditions that are caused by problems with hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood that carries oxygen. There are different kinds of hemoglobin in the blood, and there are many kinds of hemoglobin disorders. Some are caused when hemoglobin doesn’t form correctly or when your body doesn’t make enough hemoglobin.
These conditions are inherited. This means they’re passed from parent to child through genes. Genes are parts of your body's cells that store instructions for the way your body grows and works. In the United States, all babies have newborn screening tests to see if they may have certain inherited conditions when they’re born.
With early diagnosis and treatment, most babies with these disorders survive and can lead healthy lives. Without treatment, though, the disorders can lead to serious health problems and even death. This is why newborn screening right after birth is so important.
For more information on these disorders, visit genetests.org.
What hemoglobin disorders are tested for in newborn screening?
The March of Dimes recommends that all babies be screened for these hemoglobin disorders that are kinds of sickle cell disease (also called SCD):
- Hemoglobin SC disease (also called Hb SC disease)
- Sickle cell anemia (also called hemoglobin SS or Hb SS)
- Hemoglobin S-beta thalassemia
Sickle cell disease is a kind of anemia. Anemia happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of your body.
Last reviewed January 2014
See also: Newborn screening, Sickle cell disease, Thalassemia
Frequently Asked Questions
How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?
The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 31 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early.
Today all states require newborn screening for at least 26 health conditions. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia screen for 29 of the 31 recommended conditions. Some states require screening for up to 50 or more. Ask your health care provider how many conditions your state requires.