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Hello, I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on the heel prick test that midwives give newborns when they are a week old.  It escapes me for a moment what it is called and what it is for, but I was always told it was VERY important.  It always looks so awful and must hurt like hell, but what do you all think of it's importance?  I have pretty well lost faith in what the Government tell us is good for our children, which is scary!!


Home educating Mammy to DD aged 13, DS aged 12, DS aged 10, DD aged 7, DD aged 3 and DS aged 2 weeks!!  grin

The Guthrie test tests for (usually) phenylketonuria, thallasaemia, thyroid disease  as a basis- then all health authorities can add in extras- eg cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia, MCAD disorders, plus some others- depending on the 'local' problems ( usually the ethnic mix in your area).

The main 'argument' for having these tests is for the phenylketonuria and thyroid groups- this is because early treatment of these group ( adding thyroxine for thyroid and diet change for PKU) can actually prevent or reduce these children getting non reversable brain damage- of course on the otherhand it is 'herd testing' at its best.

My kids both had it done- in actual fact I did them both myself- mean women that I am- yes it is a painful procedure but with a skilled operator it is shortlived and a one off…..

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 Heel prick looks awful, but supposedly for a newborn the skin is thin so easy to get blood without too much pain.  Had to take our bub to the paediatrician at 6months and he was trying to get blood from vein in back of hand (she was premature so needed regular checks) and she was screaming blue murder before he even got any blood.  I suggested using heel prick and paediatrician said no way as far too painful in older babies as the skin on their feet was now thicker.  Bub's test was done in hospital while she was still in an incubator and anaemic and getting far too much poking about anyway, but I felt this was a simple test that could prevent a great deal of worry later.  It stiill made me cry watching them taking blood from a 4lb bub with tubes sticking out of her though!


With one of my children the midwife just picked up and jabbed away and my ds screamed the place down and it was horrid.  The second time around the midwife (independent) sat and rubbed and rubbed my ds's foot for a good ten minutes while we chatted and when it was warm with lots of blood flowing, she did it so gently and quickly my son slept through it!  I laughed I was so pleased.  Just showing the difference an experienced and kindly midwife can make (and one who knows her stuff and is no rush either).  Be sure to express your specific wish to do this rubbing (quite vigorous but not sore) or even do it yourself straight before hand if you have an irritable midwife who can't be assed.

I breast-fed both of mine during their heel-prick tests and they didn't cry at all.
My friend's daughter had the test too- and came back being diagnosed with cyctic fibrosis- without the test they may not have known until something horrible happened to her- I would definatly have it done, people criticise the medical world but they do get it right sometimes!

I, too, wondered if it was really important when mine had it done, but last month a friend of mine had a new baby and it turns out he has PKU (phenylketonuria) - if this had not been diagnosed his brain would have been slowly poisoned by a build up of phenylalanine which his body is unable to process properly and he would ahve ended up with entirely preventable severe learning difficulties. Now, although it is hard for her, at least she know what to avoid and he is under proper care. With this, he should grow up entirely unaffected, fingers crossed. So, it is an important test!

Liz grin x

Druid, boat-dwelling, home educating mum of DD1 (11), Aspie DS (9) and baby DD2 (2), & part-time step-mum to 2 stepdaughters, 9 and 7.

Thanks for all that!  You get given so much bumf from the health officials, it's hard to sort out what really is important and what isn't.

Mamauk - you're right about the technique of the midwife, I remember with my first midwife, she had to prick the heel a few times and really squeeze hard to get blood which resulted in baby crying, me wanting to choke midwife etc, not a pretty sight!  But with last baby, the midwife was, as you say, rubbing her little foot and chatting over a cuppa and baby hardly noticed and I breastfed her immediatly afterwards and that worked well, though I had got myself up into a right old lather before hand, worrying about it all.  At least I know it was all for a good reason and if we have any more children I might not worry so much.  (But then I am so good at worrying!!)   :'(

Thanks again everyone!!


Home educating Mammy to DD aged 13, DS aged 12, DS aged 10, DD aged 7, DD aged 3 and DS aged 2 weeks!!  grin

I have become some what of a pro at blood tests.My advice warm up the feet  and hands before the blood test.For heel prick warm up the hands.Put on socks and booties and scratch mitt and mittens.Wramer makes it much easier.
Emilys mum,I am glad the nursing  through the blood test worked for you,However a cautionary note ,I was shocked to find it caused a nursing strike in my 10 day old baby and after chatting with
an LLL advisor found this can be a common reaction.
My daughter was picked up on this screening it was such a shock ,not so much a shock when littlist one was diagnosed the same way 10 years later.

The heel prick test is not nice but conditions like Congenital Hypothyroidism show no definative symptoms and if not picked up cause brain damage

My little boy was nursed through his test and didn't blink and eye while it was being done. 

He's now a greedy little feeder, but wasn't very into food at that point, so I guess the fact that I was so exhausted I was very calm probably helped as much as the milk to distract him.  Every baby is different though, so I guess if you decide to go for it work how you will find it most relaxing and go for that.

Both of mine had the Heel prick test and neither one has suffered any lasting emotional stress from the occurrance.
I know it looks awful and happens at a time when as a new mum your emotions are hightened to protect bebe.
But IMHO this is well worth the momentary pain, as the test may highlight far more painful and worrying problems that may occur later on if not.

Agree with the others. I used to be a nurse tutor and this test is a very important one. I agree about the preparation though, warming the foot up will make the procedure much less of an ordeal - try putting socks on the feet prior to the test.

I boob-fed mine during the test too…
It does pick up a lot of 'things' that could be going on, and as has been mentioned before, most of the conditions it tests for don't show any real outward symptoms until it becomes too late.

You will have probably gone past the seven days, if the test is done correctly it need not be brutal. Popping the foot in some warm water beforehand can help too.

I'm the odd one out - I didn't want one of my babe's first memories to be of pain and having a needle stuck in her so I refused it (as I did all other tests and vacs)

it seems that many of yours had a good experience of it though, so that's good smile

Starchild x

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I'm with you on this, Starchild, that's why I started this thread and asked the question as to how necessary it was.  My fourth baby had the 'best' experience.  It was a lovely midwife and she cried very little, but my second poor baby had a terrible time.  I'd had little socks on him all morning, but the midwife still had to prick him twice, and twisted the little pin round and squeezed.  He was in a terrible state by the time she had left and I felt like killing her. 

The trouble is that if you listen to the 'experts', every procedure that a small baby can have is an important one and by the time they were two, they'd be like pin-cushions.  It's nice to be able to come here and ask people who are not in the employ of the NHS for their opinions.  As to what I'll do when the baby is born, I'll have to do more reading up to decide, but I'm thinking maybe it's something I ought to do.   ???

Home educating Mammy to DD aged 13, DS aged 12, DS aged 10, DD aged 7, DD aged 3 and DS aged 2 weeks!!  grin

From reading the replies I get the feeling it really depends on who does the test.  I had an Idependant Midwife and she came to the house, as she always did, and the test was over and done so quickly I don't think Milly even realised.  I'm not a meds person on the whole, no vit A, no Vacs etc but we did decided to have the gutherie as I'd rather a little bit of blood coming out to diagnosis something early than lots of meds and vaccines for no real reason.  These areas will always be of great debate, I alway tell mums that you have to do what it right for you whatever it is, if you can live with what u decide to do then thats the important thing.

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