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Medicines and Tests for Bubs at Birth

Your little one has just arrived safely earthside - congratulations! Now, it's time for some screenings, checks and medicines. To help you better understand why these occur, we've listed all of the screenings and medicines that will be offered to your bub and when:


Vitamin K

Babies are unable to get enough vitamin K during pregnancy or birth. Why do they need it? You ask. Vitamin K is required to help blood clot and to prevent bleeding. Some newborns will even be vitamin K deficient during the first eight days of their life.

It's recommended that bubs should be given an injection with a single dose of vitamin K within a few hours of birth.

Without enough vitamin K, newborns can be at risk of developing a rare but serious disorder called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding or VKDB for short. VKDB can cause bleeding into the brain and can also result in death. 

Is there a link between vitamin K and childhood cancer?

There have been studies published that suggest vitamin K and childhood cancer may be linked. However, babies in Australia have been receiving vitamin k for over 30 years without any recorded link. The National Health and Research Council in Australia has also thoroughly investigated these claims and have also found no correlation. You can view their research here.


Hepatitis B

In Australia, it's recommended that all babies are immunised against hepatitis B soon after birth. This is known as a universal vaccination. The reason this is given is that some women may not realise that they are infected with the virus, and therefore, may have passed it onto their bub. If the hepatitis B virus is contracted, it can lead to chronic liver problems and liver cancers. 

You will generally be offered this vaccine before your bub leaves the hospital. However, you will need to have additional doses until the child is four to protect them against the virus entirely. If you are known to be hepatitis B positive, your baby will be given an immunoglobulin injection for added and immediate protection from the virus. 

Newborn Screening Test

You have the option to you have a newborn screening test to test for rare diseases. If found and treated soon after birth, babies can grow and develop normally without severe complications. The newborn screening test screens for:

  • Congenital hypothyroidism

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Amino acid disorders, e.g. Phenylketonuria (PKU)

  • Fatty acid oxidation disorders

  • Other rare metabolic disorders

What does the test involve?

Parents must give written consent for a newborn screening test. Once permission is given, a doctor or midwife will prick your bub's heel to produce a small amount of blood. This generally occurs when your little one is between 48 and 72 hours old. Four small spots of blood are then taken and put on a piece of blotting card, and they are tested for the above disorders. If the results are all good - you will not be contacted (phew!). This is the case for more than 99% of bubs. If your baby is found to have a medical condition, you will be contacted and referred to a specialist for tests and treatment. 


Hearing Screen

A hearing screen will occur soon after birth - but like the newborn screening test, you will need to give written permission. Hearing loss may not seem evident in the first few weeks of life, but can be detected by a hearing screen. The results will be given to you as soon as it's done. During your Maternal and Child Health Nurse appointments, ongoing hearing tests will also occur as your bub grows. 

Other Checks

In addition to the above checks and medicines, your bub will also be weighed in the first few hours of life and their first poos and weeks will be recorded within the first 24 hours.


Your newborn will also receive an Apgar score. This is a rating for your bub's heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, response to stimuli and skin colour. A score of 0, 1 or 2 is given for each category, and the total makes up the Apgar score. This is used to measure how well your newborn has transitioned from life inside your tummy to life earthside. 

Excited to learn more about birth and what to expect throughout the whole process? Book a Bump, Birth and Beyond course and our expert midwife educator will explain everything that you need to know and learn before your little one arrives. To view dates or to book, click here.


P.s. Because we love our blog readers, use BLOG10 for 10% of your next booking! 

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