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The heel prick screen appointment

When your baby is due to have the heel prick screen, your midwife or public health nurse (PHN) will give you information about the screen.

After you've read this, you'll be asked to sign your baby's 'newborn screening card'.

By signing this, you confirm that:

  • you received information about the heel prick
  • the information about your baby is correct
  • you consent to having your baby screened

Newborn bloodspot screening card

The midwife or PHN will use a newborn bloodspot screening card.

The card has 3 parts:

  • a sample area to collect your baby's blood
  • an information sheet to record your baby's details and your consent to screening
  • a copy of the information sheet that you can keep for your records

What happens during the heel prick screen

Your midwife or PHN does the heel prick screen in hospital or at your home. They usually do the heel prick 3 to 5 days after your baby is born.

They will take a few drops of blood from your baby's heel using a special device. They collect the blood onto the newborn bloodspot screening card.

You can help your baby by:

  • making sure they're warm and comfortable
  • being ready to feed or cuddle your baby

What happens to your baby's heel prick blood sample

The midwife or PHN sends the screening card to the National Newborn Bloodspot Screening Laboratory in Children's Health Ireland at Temple Street.

When the laboratory has checked your baby’s blood sample, they will keep the card securely for at least 10 years. After that it will be disposed of, in line with current policy.

The card may also be used for:

  • other tests that your doctor recommends for your baby – your doctor will ask for your signed consent
  • quality control purposes to help improve the screening programme as approved by the HSE - all samples will have names removed and it will not be possible to trace any result back to an individual child

The samples are never used for commercial purposes.

If you do not want heel prick screening for your baby

We recommend having your baby screened for these 9 rare but serious conditions.

The long-term benefits of screening are greater than the small discomfort your baby will feel when the blood sample is taken.

But you can choose not to have your baby screened. You'll need to tell your midwife or PHN when they offer you screening.

They will ask you to sign an 'opt-out' form. The form says you understand the risks of not having your baby screened.

If you change your mind

If you change your mind and decide to have your baby screened, contact your local PHN or GP. They can arrange screening for your baby up until they are 12 months old.

Repeat heel prick screens

Sometimes, the midwife or PHN will contact you to do a second heel prick screen. This may happen if there was not enough blood on the first screening card or if the results are not clear.

Learn about your baby's heel prick results

Page last reviewed: 22 August 2022
Next review due: 22 August 2025