COVID-19: Information for pregnancy and newborn screening participants

Antenatal and newborn screening programmes will continue during the health service response to COVID-19, but with some changes to ensure that health staff, women and babies are kept safe (read more below).


Antenatal screening for Down syndrome and other conditions

Antenatal screening for Down syndrome and other conditions will continue at green, orange and red of the COVID-19 traffic light system. Some changes may be made to the radiology services you receive to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health of pregnant women and health staff.  The main changes include:

  • If you have a possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection you will still be able to access maternity ultrasound services however you or your midwife must ring the facility to check whether they are able to undertake the scan and what precautions need to be taken. Please note, some radiology providers may not be able to undertake your scan.
  • You may be offered a shorter scan appointment to allow the practice to schedule more space between appointments. While the important scanning procedures will take place, social scanning, such as 3D imaging, may not be available in these shorter appointments.
  • You may be asked to attend the appointment on your own unless you need a translator or have been advised otherwise by your screening provider. Please check with the facility if there are any restrictions on bringing a support person(s).
  • Health providers have the right to stop a scan if they are uncomfortable with patient behaviour or undeclared symptoms, such as coughing.
  • Your health provider will follow infection prevention and control guidelines to ensure that the practice, your scanning suite and processes are safe.  If you have any queries about your appointment you can talk to your ultrasound service provider directly.
  • If you are unable to have your first trimester ultrasound, your lead maternity carer will offer you second trimester screening.


Newborn metabolic screening

Newborn metabolic screening (the heel prick test) will continue to be provided to newborn babies. Your midwife will be guided by infection prevention and control guidelines to keep you and your baby as safe as possible during the test. We encourage you to talk to your midwife if you have any questions.


Newborn hearing screening

Newborn hearing screening will continue to be provided at most DHBs in all levels of the traffic light system, although there may be some locations where services are not available.

Under the traffic light system, DHBs will be working to test as many babies as possible before they are discharged from hospital. Access to outpatient appointments will vary depending on the alert level and DHB.

If you have not been offered newborn hearing screening for your baby or your baby requires a follow-up screening appointment, your DHB will be in touch to arrange an outpatient appointment with you once available.

If your baby requires an audiology assessment, the audiology team will contact you with an outpatient appointment when available.

Newborn hearing screening is important.

Without screening or audiology testing it is difficult to detect hearing loss in babies until their speech and language development becomes delayed.  Early detection of hearing loss will help parents and families / whānau and professionals to assist the baby to develop good communication and language skills.

The Well Child Tamariki Ora My Health Book has suggestions about how to interact with your baby. These activities will help your baby develop good listening and communication. We recommend all families follow these suggestions while waiting for their appointment.

If you have any questions about your newborn hearing screening or audiology testing appointment you can contact your local DHB newborn hearing screening service

Page last updated: 21 December 2021