The newborn baby will be weighed and measured, have the diameter of her skull measured, and be examined to see that all physical parts – eyes, ears, nose, fingers, toes, etc. – are normal. This examination will be done immediately after the birth by the midwife or doctor who has delivered the baby. The paediatrician will examine inside the baby’s mouth, check her heart and lungs, and feel the abdomen to see there is no swelling and everything is in the correct place. The baby’s hips will be checked to see that there is no dislocation, as it is important that treatment is started very early if there is any abnormality. Her bowel movements will be noted – she should have a bowel movement by the end of the first day.
The baby’s reflexes will also be tested at this stage. A baby will have a spontaneous reaction to certain stimuli. These reactions are called automatic reflexes, and they are:
• the rooting reflex. If the baby’s cheek is touched, she will turn her head to that side and try to locate with her mouth the thing that touched her.
• the grasp reflex. The baby will strongly grasp anything put into her hand. Her feet also show the same curling movement.
• the stepping reflex. If the baby is held up so that her foot is in contact with
a surface, she will bring her other foot up as though stepping or walking.
• the sucking reflex. The baby will suck on anything placed in her mouth.
• the Moro reflex. When the baby is startled she will fling out her arms, spread out her hands and then clench them.
• the placing reflex. When the baby’s foot is brought up under the edge of a surface, she will lift her foot and place it on top of the surface.
the startle reflex. When the baby is startled by a loud noise or bright light, she will draw in her arms and clench her fists, and may cry.
These reflexes help to test the baby’s nervous system. The reflexes disappear as the baby grows older and more co-ordinated.
After the sixth day of life, a sample of blood may be taken from the baby to be checked by the Guthrie test for phenylketonuria, which is a rare but treatable cause of p, and to be tested for thyroid deficiency, which affects growth. A test for cystic fibrosis is being studied and may become a routine screening.
All these tests are important, and must be carried out to make sure that the baby is normal and healthy.
The baby’s birth has to be registered within six weeks (three weeks in Scotland) from the day she was born. This must be done at the local Register Office. The Registrar will record the birth and give the parents a birth certificate and a National Health Service number for the baby, with the form to register the baby with a doctor.