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Newborn Screening Program

Smiling baby lying in a colorful ball pit.

Today, newborns in Wisconsin are screened, or checked, for:

Most newborns are screened within the first days of life. The goal of the Wisconsin Newborn Screening program is to make sure that all Wisconsin newborns are screened, diagnosed, and treated for certain conditions.

The program is a partnership between Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and Wisconsin State of Laboratory Hygiene. It relies on a Newborn Screening Advisory Group. Members include public health professionals, health care providers, and parents.

Learn more about the program and find helpful resources.

Important Wisconsin newborn screening policies

Below are important updates to the Newborn Screening program.

Pompe disease is part of Wisconsin newborn screening

We have added screening for Pompe disease to the Wisconsin Newborn Screening program’s panel of conditions. This change went into effect Jan. 10, 2022. This means that all infants born in Wisconsin must be screened for Pompe disease within 24–48 hours after birth. Babies born outside of the hospital also must be screened.

To learn more about this rule, view Emergency Rule Issued to Add Pompe Disease to Newborn Screening. (PDF)

We report the newborn screening status for all Wisconsin births

In February 2015, we updated the policy for reporting the screening status of newborns. We sent a letter about this update to health care groups in the state. See Report Newborn Screening Status of Every Wisconsin Birth. (PDF)

The policy requires reporting the newborn screening status on every Wisconsin birth. This action helps make sure that all eligible newborns in the state have access to the right screenings in the required timeframe.

In response to the policy change, there are revised Wisconsin Newborn Screening Blood Collection Forms (cards). They let submitters report a newborn’s status as “not screened.” The revised forms also expand critical congenital heart disease screening data. See How to Complete the Blood Collection Form.

Questions about these changes?

Newborn screening FAQs (frequently asked questions)

Expand each question to learn more about newborn screening in Wisconsin.

Newborn screening is the process of testing babies for conditions within the first days of life. Watch the video from Family Voices of Wisconsin to learn more.

In Wisconsin, newborn screening is required by law, Wis. Stat. § 253.13, Tests for Congenital Disorders and Wis. Stat. § 253.115, Newborn Hearing Screening. This law requires that all babies born in hospitals in Wisconsin have newborn screening before they leave the hospital. Babies born at home must be tested within a week of birth. Ideally within the first days of life. It protects the health of babies.

Newborn screening can save lives by finding babies with “hidden disorders.” These are conditions that you can’t see just by looking at your baby. Screening also helps:

  • Get babies early treatment, if needed. Early treatment can prevent health problems, long-term damage, and even death.
  • Inform families, so they can plan for their baby’s needs.
  • Allow providers and families time to find the right specialists.

Most disorders found through newborn screening are genetic. Knowing about genetics can help make sense of why newborn screening is important. Watch the video from Family Voices of Wisconsin to learn more.

Each type of newborn screening has a different method:

  • Blood screening—A few drops of blood from the baby’s heel are put on a special paper. This is sent to the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene for testing.
  • Hearing screening—Accurate and gentle methods are used to check the baby’s hearing before they leave the hospital. Often, hearing is screened while the baby rests.
  • Critical congenital heart disease screening—A sensor (called a pulse oximeter) is placed near the foot or hand. It checks how much oxygen is in the blood.

Make sure your baby is tested in the first days of life.

Leave your correct address and phone number with your care team and your baby's doctor. If you do not have a phone, leave the number of a friend or relative who can find you.

If your baby's doctor asks you to bring your baby back to repeat the newborn screening test or for further testing, do so as soon as possible. It is important that testing be done right away.

Sometimes, a newborn screening has abnormal results. This doesn’t mean your baby has a disorder. The screening helps find babies who may be at risk for a disorder. Your baby will likely need to be re-screened. Watch the video from Family Voices of Wisconsin to learn more.

Parents or caregivers may refuse newborn screening for their baby. This is only allowed if religious beliefs and practices or personal views do not allow this testing.

If you refuse newborn screening, you may be asked to sign a paper. The paper states that you refused to have your baby tested for these serious disorders.

Wisconsin Newborn Screening Laboratory is dedicated to promoting and encouraging the sharing of knowledge, communication and resources with health care agencies, families, and anyone else interested in NBS for the benefit of babies born in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Screening Hearts in Newborns (SHINE) Project is a pilot project through the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the State of Wisconsin designed to implement universal screening for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD).

Wisconsin Sound Beginnings promotes and supports universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) and follow- up services statewide

Baby's First Test has information for families and professionals on newborn screening.

Newborn Screening: Online Education has easy-to-understand, interactive tutorials from Heartland Regional Genetics and Newborn Screening Collaborative help families to learn about some conditions diagnosed through newborn screening.

The Newborn Screening Story: How One Simple Test Changed Lives, Science, and Health in America is an informative booklet from the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) chronicles 50 years of newborn screening in America.

The Parent's Guide to Newborn Screening has information on the basics of newborn screening from the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene.

Save Babies Through Screening Foundation is a leader in the national grassroots advocacy movement and media awareness. They actively participates on local, state and federal levels to improve newborn screening.

Related topics

Last revised July 7, 2023