Testing our babies

Every baby is special. From the first cry to the curl of the toes, each baby is unique. It’s the differences that make us smile, make us laugh and make us brag to our friends and neighbors.

More than 300 babies are born each year in Lyon County.

If you add in each county immediately surrounding Lyon, that adds up to more than 900 bundles of joy.

Because each baby is different, it’s important all babies are tested through the state’s Newborn Screening Program. Before a baby leaves the hospital, he has some special tests called newborn screening. Newborn screening checks for serious but rare conditions at birth. It includes blood, hearing and heart screening.

A baby can be born with a health condition but may not show any signs of the problem at first. If a health condition is found early with newborn screening, it can often be treated. This makes it possible to avoid more serious health problems later in life.

Minnesota is a national leader when it comes to newborn screening. Today, babies are tested for more than 50 disorders. Minnesota played an important role in the history of newborn screening. Inspired by his niece in Minneapolis, March of Dimes grantee Dr. Robert Guthrie developed the first screening test for PKU (phenylketonuria) in 1963, allowing prevention of intellectual disabilities caused by PKU through diet.

Throughout the years, the March of Dimes funded the development of three other newborn screening tests.

During the 1990s, March of Dimes volunteers lobbied to make sure these tests were available to all babies. Before that, some states did few tests and some did a lot.

A baby might live or die based on what state they were born in. The March of Dimes has worked tirelessly to promote expanded newborn screening programs across the United States at the state level, and to obtain federal guidelines for newborn screening.

This year, the Minnesota’s Department of Health added testing for Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), and is pushing for the addition of Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHD). CCHD is the most common and most lethal birth defect, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all infant deaths due to birth defects.

Each baby is different. That’s why each baby should be screened. Today, we celebrate 50 years of newborn screening. That’s 50 years of saving and improving the lives of countless thousands of affected children.