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Early Tests and Treatments for Newborns

August 13, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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doctors examining newborn baby



Shortly after your baby is born, healthcare providers will do a few routine tests and procedures.

Here's what you can expect. 

Apgar test

The Apgar test is performed shortly after birth to measure your baby's health in five areas: 

  1. Heart rate
  2. Breathing
  3. Muscle tone
  4. Reflexes
  5. Skin colour

The simple test results in rating from a total of 10 called the Apgar score. Most babies score an Apgar between seven and 10.

Eye Ointment

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that all newborns receive treatment to prevent an infection of gonorrhea or chlamydia. These infections can get into the baby's eyes during birth, and if not treated, can cause blindness. Treatment is typically an ointment applied to the baby's eyes shortly after birth. This can be delayed to allow for the baby to be skin-to-skin with the mother, and for initial breastfeeding.

Vitamin K injection

Babies are born with low levels of vitamin K, an important factor in blood clotting. To help prevent hemorrhagic disease - a bleeding problem that can occur in the first few days of life - the Canadian Paediatric Society advises that all newborns receive an injection of vitamin K within six hours after birth. Low vitamin K is the main cause of hemorrhagic disease in new babies.

If you don't want your baby to receive the injection, talk with your healthcare provider. Providing vitamin K by mouth may be an option, however it's recommended to administer vitamin K by injection. If you choose vitamin K by mouth, it’s provided at birth and two more times over the next four to eight weeks.

Close touching and skin-to-skin contact with your newborn will help calm the baby and regulate body functions. Babies are also calmer and cry less if they're breastfed and held closely during tests and procedures.

Watch a video on how to help your newborn manage pain.

Resources & Links:
BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre: Vitamin K and Your Newborn

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