Moments after a baby is born, they receive their “welcome to the world” exam. “The first thing we’re looking for is to make sure the baby is breathing fine and looks well,” says CHOC Pediatric Specialist Dr. Angela Dangvu. While the exam is brief, it’s thorough, starting with checking the shape of the head, looking to see if there is any bruising and that the baby’s soft spot is open and feels appropriate. “Most babies are totally fine,” she explains, “but some could have difficulty breathing or aren’t transitioning from the in utero environment to the outside world.”
Eyes, ears and mouth
After checking the infant’s head, the eyes come next. “We check the eyes to make sure the pupils are normal, and we also look for a good light reflex to ensure the back of the eyes are normal,” says Dr. Dangvu. After that, it’s on to an ear inspection for proper formation and then the mouth, to make sure the baby’s tongue is not tied. “A lot of what we’re doing is making sure they were formed properly in the womb,” she notes.
Heart and hip check
“The next thing is to listen to the heart for any murmurs and then the lungs, as well as the abdomen, checking for a soft feel and making sure no masses are present,” says Dr. Dangvu. “Also, examining the hips is a really important part of the process,” she adds, “to rule out dislocation.”
What other exams can parents expect?
Parents can expect their bundle of joy to receive other tests and treatments before heading home, including:
- Hearing screening
- Congenital heart disease screen
- Hepatitis B vaccine and vitamin K injection
- The percentage of body weight a baby will lose in the first few days of life, which they will gain back: 10%
- The number of minutes it takes to conduct a newborn exam: 5-10 minutes
- In general, the number of hours after birth when a newborn can go home (72 hours for babies delivered by C-section): 24 to 48 hours
This article was featured in the Orange County Register on November 5, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson.
Featured pediatric expert
Medical College of Pennsylvania
Dr. Dangvu is President-Elect of the Orange County Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She completed her internship and residency at CHOC Children’s Orange, and her areas of interests include breast-feeding support.
Dr. Dangvu’s philosophy of care: “The parents and I are a team; we’re working together to make good decisions about how to care for their children.”