Information for the public
After your baby is born the midwife will perform some initial checks. You will then be offered a more detailed top-to-toe physical examination of your baby within 72 hours of birth (usually in hospital).
The examination is normally carried out by one of the healthcare professionals in the maternity unit, the midwife, junior doctor or paediatrician when your baby is calm and settled. As part of an overall top-to-toe physical assessment, the healthcare professional will also conduct a number of specific screening examinations to identify whether there are any problems or conditions which may need monitoring, further investigation or treatment. The specific screening examinations include checking your baby's:
- heart - carried out by observing your baby, noting how well s/he feeds (baby's with a serious heart problem sometimes feed poorly) , feeling the pulses and listening to the heart. Further tests may be necessary. Around 1 in 200 babies have a heart problem that requires treatment.
- hips - if your baby is born with hip joints not properly formed then, left untreated, this could cause a limp and joint problems. Each hip will be carefully examined. Further investigation may involve an ultrasound scan of the hips. About 1 or 2 in 1,000 babies have hip problems that require treatment.
- eyes - carried out by using an ophthalmoscope (special torch) to check the movement and appearance of your baby's eyes. Such checks help to identify cataracts and other conditions. About 2 or 3 in 10,000 babies have problems with their eyes that require treatment.
- testes - your baby boy will be examined to check that his testes are in the right place. Testes can descend into the scrotum of their own accord but it can take a number of months for this to happen. If this does not happen by a year old, then an operation, at one to two years, may be advised. About 1 in 100 baby boys have problems with their testes that require an operation.
The outcome of the examination is recorded in your maternity notes and in the baby's personal child health record ('red book') which you will be given soon after the birth of your baby.
As your baby will experience a lot of physical changes in the first two months of life, the physical examination is repeated at about 6 to 8 weeks. It will usually be carried out by the GP, a paediatrician or health visitor. The outcome of the 6 to 8 week examination is recorded in the baby's personal child health record.
If you have had experience of the newborn and infant physical examinations then we would be keen to hear your views: did you receive all the information you required, did the healthcare professionals carrying out the examinations explain to you what they were doing, were you clear about why the physical examination was being offered and what conditions it is designed to detect? If you would like to send us your comments then please contact us.
If you have any questions about the newborn and infant physical examination then you may find the answer in our frequently asked questions section. If you can't find the answer to your question then speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP or contact us.