Newborn baby checks

Your baby's first health exam happens just minutes after the birth. Here's how midwives and doctors will make sure you and your baby are thriving.

Once your baby is born, and you've said hello, chances are the midwives will whisk him or her across the room for a few moments. You might wonder what they're doing over there – the answer is, they're performing what will be the first of many basic health checks, just to make sure everything's going the way it ought to.

Here's a rundown of all the ways that doctors and midwives make sure you and your baby are healthy and thriving:

Apgar test

One minute after birth, and again at five minutes after the birth, your midwife gives your new baby what's called an Apgar score. This rates your baby in five areas: skin colour, heart rate, reflex response, muscle tone and breathing. Based on your baby's scores, the midwife will decide whether any extra help is needed to get your little one off to the best start. You probably won't even notice it's being done, midwives often calculate this in their head.

A bit later, after you've had that first cuddle, your midwife will also record your baby's length, weight and head circumference, take his or her temperature and do a quick head-to toe check to make sure there is nothing immediate that needs attention. Anything that is picked up will be discussed with you and a paediatrician may be called to perform another check.

Newborn examination (NIPE)

At some point in the first three days, a paediatrician or your midwife will have a closer, head-to-toe look at your baby to make sure everything's in good working order. This is a great time to ask any questions you have – most new parents have quite a few! The doctor or midwife will also probably ask you about your family medical history, so be sure to mention any health issues that run in the family.

Heel prick test

Around five to eight days after the birth, your midwife will offer to take a tiny sample of blood from your baby's heel. (This is usually quite unpopular with both babies and new parents, but don't worry – it doesn't hurt for long, and a nice feed afterwards helps to calm any crying.) The sample will be tested for a number of rare disorders, including PKU (phenylketonuria) and cystic fibrosis. These are very rare conditions but are best identified earlier on in life.

Health visitor

Once you're home and settled in with your new baby, you'll probably get a call from your health visitor. Health visitors are specially-qualified nurses or midwives to help with any issues you might be having as a family. They are there to help look after everyone's well-being, so do talk to them about how you're feeling as well. From birth until your baby is five years old.

Hearing test

Within the first three months, you should be offered a newborn hearing test. This is usually offered to you at the hospital before you are discharged. This uses a small earpiece to transmit gentle sounds into your baby's ear and measure the inner ear's response, to make sure your baby's hearing is clear.

Postnatal check up

About 6-8 weeks after your baby’s birth, your GP will want to see you and your baby in order to make sure that you're both recovering well from the birth. In your case, this may involve checking your urine, blood pressure, and examining any stitches you may have. Your GP will also examine your baby to make sure everything's developing as expected. This is a great opportunity to ask any questions you've got, or raise any concerns you may have – it may help to write these down before going!

Baby clinic visits

In the first year of your baby's life, you'll probably visit your local baby clinic for regular baby weigh-ins and chats with your health visitor. It’s also a good place to meet other mums of young babies and to find out about local mother and baby groups.