Home birth and the PKU test.

Because it doesn’t seem that many people know about this, and it’s unnecessary for more home birthers than just us to have that millisecond of freak-out when receiving the phone call, I’m sharing this information with the Israeli home birthing masses:

If you’ve birthed in a hospital, you know that before you are discharged, your baby receives that torturous PKU test. That’s the one where they prick his foot (or feet, in both my cases) and draw blood to fill out a card which is submitted for a universal PKU test. By the way, PKU stands for phenylketonuria, which is: A genetic disorder in which the body lacks the enzyme necessary to metabolize phenylalanine to tyrosine. Left untreated, the disorder can cause brain damage and progressive mental retardation as a result of the accumulation of phenylalanine and its breakdown products.


Anyway, after a hospital birth, before discharge, your newborn would get the test and you’d be told if there’s a problem, you’ll be called within a week, and if there is no problem, no phone call.

In my home birth three weeks ago, our midwife Joyce did the PKU test when she came to check up on the baby and me on day 3 (same day the hospital would have). Then we mailed the card to the Tel Hashomer hospital, same as Ein Kerem hospital would have done. That’s where all the PKU checks in the country get tested, and from there, reported back to your local area.

So when my husband got a phone call a week later, there was a definite millisecond of, um, what? But we were told the test was clear – they just needed to follow up on some details.

After double-checking to make sure we understood the phone call correctly, we now know the process:  after a home birth, because there was no automatic recording of the birth or its details, they need to check up with the parents to get it all clearly.

So if you do it at home, mail the PKU test, and get a phone call even though it came out clean – yeah, breath, that’s about right.

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