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Pulse oximetry screening

What is pulse oximetry?

Pulse oximetry is a quick, simple test that does not hurt your baby. It gives us your baby's pulse rate and the amount of oxygen in your baby's blood. 

Why is it being done?

This screening test can detect serious heart conditions that are not picked up by antenatal ultrasound or clinical examination.

How is the screening test done?

A small sensor is placed around your baby's right wrist and the connecting cord is attached to the blood oxygen level reading monitor - an oximeter. The oximeter will analyse your baby's blood oxygen level within a few minutes. The same will also occur on one of your baby's feet. This screening test can be done while you are holding and/or feeding your baby. 

When is this screening test done?

This screening test will occur before you and your baby leave the birth suite or recovery. 

When will I know the result?

You will be told the results immediately and they will also be documented in your baby’s medical record.

What happens if the reading is not normal?

Low oxygen levels can occur in normal newborn babies as they are adapting after birth. If repeat screening continues to show low oxygen levels a doctor will come and review your baby.

  • Low oxygen levels can also occur in babies with respiratory distress and infection.
  • It is important to rule out serious cardiac conditions.
  • Your baby may need further investigations.

Will this pick up all serious heart conditions?

Pulse oximetry screening may not pick up all serious heart conditions therefore it is important to continue seeing your local doctor/practice nurse for well-child checks as per your baby's red book.

Further information

If you would like more information please contact your local doctor, midwife or nurse. 

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 03/11/2016.
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