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Heel prick screening: what it is

Heel prick screening – also known as 'newborn bloodspot screening' – checks for 8 rare but serious conditions in babies. Screening is strongly recommended.

We offer the 'heel prick' screen to all newborn babies, usually when they are between 3 and 5 days old.

A midwife or public health nurse carries out the screen, in hospital or at your home. They take a small sample of blood from your baby's heel. This is why it is known as the heel prick.

Laboratory staff then check your baby’s blood for 8 rare but serious conditions:

These are all conditions which affect chemical processes in the body. Although these conditions are rare, detecting them early can prevent disability or death. Detecting them early means treatment can begin earlier and can result in better outcomes.

The heel prick is free and 99.9% of parents in Ireland agree to have their babies screened.

Limitations of screening

Like all screening, the heel prick is not 100% reliable. It does not make a diagnosis. It can only suggest that a baby is at high risk of having one or more of the conditions screened for.

Related topic

Why we test babies by heel prick

Page last reviewed: 28/11/2018
Next review due: 28/11/2021