Can I Refuse Newborn Screening For My Baby?

Newborn screenings can diagnose and prevent damaging health issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. millions of newborns receive special screenings before leaving the hospital to ascertain whether they have metabolic, endocrine and genetic disorders. Doctors draw a few drops of blood from the infant’s heel to check for these health issues. Babies are also screened for hearing loss and congenital heart defects. Even healthy babies who appear to have no issues will receive the newborn screening. This can prevent major issues like organ or brain damage or even death.

Kids Health shared that screenings may include tests for:

Toxoplasmosis– This is a parasitic infection cause by the toxoplasma gondii parasite. It can cause flu-like symptoms or have no signs at all. Pregnant women who have toxoplasmosis can pass the infection to their unborn children. Infants may have enlarged spleens or livers, jaundice, seizures or severe eye infections. If left untreated, the condition can lead to mental disabilities, hearing loss or serious eye infections.

Tyrosinemia– Similarly to maple syrup urine disease, individuals with tyrosinemia have difficulty processing amino acids. The condition causes a buildup of tyrosine and byproducts which may cause neurological issues, respiratory failure, abdominal issues and more. The National Institutes of Health wrote that around 10 percent of newborns have temporarily elevated levels of tyrosine when born, but this is often caused by premature birth or vitamin C deficiency.

Cystic fibrosis– This genetic disease is progressive and causes mucus buildup in the pancreas, lungs and other organs that can lead to lung damage, infections and even re​spiratory failure.

Phenylketonuria – This condition is a metabolic disorder that affects how babies process protein. PKU can cause brain damage and developmental delays if untreated. Low-phenylalanine diets with low protein are recommended for individuals who have PKU.

Galactosemia– Individuals with galactosemia have trouble converting galactose into glucose. This means lactose products, including breast milk, can be dangerous and even cause blindness, growth deficiency, severe intellectual disabilities or death. A special diet is recommended for infants with this condition.

sickle cells, newborn screeningsSickle cells are misshapen blood cells that affect oxygen levels.

Sickle cell disease– These inherited disorders occur in the red blood cells and cause pain attacks where affected individuals cannot get enough oxygen. These diseases can cause organ and tissue damage.

MCAD deficiency– Infants with MCAD deficiency have difficulty processing fats into usable energy and may show complications like comas, liver trouble, seizures, breathing issues, brain damage or sudden death.

Biotinidase deficiency– Individuals who have this condition cannot recycle biotin, also known as vitamin H. Biotinidase deficiency can cause skin rashes, weak muscle tone, seizures, hair loss, ataxia, developmental delays and fungal infections.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia– These genetic disorders affect the way a person’s adrenal glands make hormones. Typically, babies with this condition don’t make enough cort​isol or have incorrect levels of mineralocorticoids or androgens. This can affect normal development and growth, especially of the genitals.

Maple syrup urine disease– Babies who have this condition have difficulty processing amino acids. Infants may have difficulty eating, be lethargic, frequently vomit and experience developmental delays.

Severe combined immunodeficiency– SCID involves a lack of functioning T-lymphocyte and B-lymphotcytes​, which can cause those affected to be very likely to develop infections.

Congenital hypothyroidism– Babies with this disease are low on thyroid hormones, which can lead to slow brain development and overall growth. Early detection can prevent lasting effects if babies take oral thyroid hormone doses as treatment.


Once a screening has been performed, your doctor will call you with the results. Negative tests mean the baby is healthy. Positive readings may require more testing to better understand congenital health issues, hormone problems or other health challenges.The results of newborn screenings can provide doctors with life-saving information. For instance, if a baby is has hypothyroidism, he or she can take medication to prevent brain damage and slowed growth. Each state has different laws about newborn screenings. Most states screen for several conditions, but some have more extensive processes.

Can I refuse newborn screening?

Before your child is born, you will learn about newborn screenings as a part of regular prenatal care. According to an issue of Law and the Public Health, some states require newborn screenings while others give the parent or guardian the option to have their child partake. It’s a good idea to consider why these tests are so important in promoting the health of your baby if you have the option to make this decision.