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‘Neonatal screenings a must’
By Mariecar Jara-Puyod April 10, 2013
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Sharjah: Obstetrician-gynaecologists and everyone into obstetrics care must inform pregnant mothers and their families of the value of newborn or neonatal screenings.

This is the recommendation of two US-based specialists whose “Newborn Screenings and the Obstetrician” eight-page “clinical expert series” was published in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology-Middle East Edition, and distributed at the recently-held “2nd Obstetrics & Gynaecology Exhibition and Congress” in Dubai.

The specialists-authors, into genetics — in relation to maternal and fetal-childcare for at least 20 years — are Dr Nancy C Rose from Utah and Dr Siobhan M Dolan from New York.

Newborn or neonatal screening, as two career women-mothers from Sharjah termed it, is the procedure done on infants, whose blood samples are taken from one of their heels a day or two after delivery.

The procedure is conducted to know if they are afflicted with disabilities so that immediate medical interventions could be applied.

Rose and Dolan wrote about the mandatory public health programme in the US and defined it as designed for the identification of disorders in which early intervention improves long-term health outcomes in children.

One of the Sharjah mothers said her first-born son underwent the newborn screening a day after the natural delivery at the Latifa (Al Wasl) Hospital 10 years ago.

Her younger daughter was tested two days after she was born by caesarian section at the American Hospital two years back.

The other mother had her three girls, whose are between four and nine of age, went through tests at the Al Qasimi Hospital and Al Zahra Hospital.

“I was given a pamphlet explaining what the screening was all about. I signed an undertaking expressing my willingness for my children to be tested,” said the first mother, claiming that both were also tested for hearing impairments. 

She knows very well about the screenings since she has been a long-time UAE resident, she said, adding that these are common practices among the upper middle-class and the wealthy in the Philippines.

However, she could not recall her OB-Gyn discussing it with her during her two pregnancies.

Both mothers said they were fortunate to have given birth to healthy children. If not, their respective doctors would have reported back to them for the immediate interventions.

Rose and Dolan wrote: “Because newborn screening typically occurs during the newborn’s hospital stay before discharge, obstetric care providers are in a unique position to inform parents during pregnancy about this important health initiative.”

“Given the emotional nature of the postpartum period, the pre-natal period is a better time for education,” they added.

Rose and Dolan said it is important that parents be made to understand about the essential newborn or neonatal screenings since babies with disorders may look healthy at birth.”

“Serious problems can be prevented if we find out about the disorders right away,” they also stated.

According to Rose and Dolan, the forerunner of newborn screenings was a simple blood test developed for the infants by Dr Robert Guthrie of New York in 1962, to detect elevated levels of phenylalanine in newborns that causes Phenylketonuria, leading to seizures and significant developmental delays.

Since then and because of advancing research studies, newborn screenings could distinguish the signs and symptoms for illnesses that result in the malfunctioning of organs, mental retardation and other abnormalities such as the disorders related to amino acids, organic acids and fatty acids.

The life-shortening critical congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anaemia could also be diagnosed at birth.

Rose and Dolan wrote: “If undetected at birth, hearing impairment can affect speech and language acquisition, emotion and social development and academic achievement.”

“Without newborn hearing screening, most children are not identified as hearing-impaired until two to three years of age,” they added. 
 

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