Antenatal and newborn screening programmes are an important element of high quality maternity care.
Screening is a process of identifying apparently healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition. They can then be offered information, further tests and appropriate treatment to reduce their risk and/or any complications arising from the disease or condition.
Antenatal and newborn screening programmes are in place to detect a range of conditions, which might increase disability if not identified early in the antenatal or neonatal period.
Screening programmes offered to pregnant women and their babies after birth are Foetal Anomaly / Downs syndrome, Sickle cell / Haemoglobinopathy Screening, screening for infectious diseases (HIV, Hepatitis B virus), Newborn Bloodspot, Hearing and Newborn /Infant Physical Examination. The UK National Screening Programme has produced a timelinediagram showing when the different programmes are offered to women.
These screening programmes address issues that may have serious consequences for future wellbeing and quality of life. To take Newborn Hearing Screeningas an example, there are approximately 900 children born a year in the UK with significant permanent hearing impairment and one to two babies in every 1,000 are born with a hearing loss in one or both ears. Hearing impairment can cause delay in the acquisition of language and communication skills, and in some cases, there is a consequent longer-term risk to education achievement, mental health and quality of life. All parents of newborns should be offered a hearing test for their baby within two weeks of birth.