The purpose of the newborn physical examination is to assess the baby’s transition from intrauterine life to extra-uterine existence and to detect congenital malformations and actual or potential disease.
The baby should be examined briefly immediately after birth. This should be confined to quick assessment of respiration, circulation, temperature, neurological status, and screening for anomalies or disease that might mandate emergency treatment.
A complete examination should be performed within the first 24 hours and again at discharge from the nursery.
The doctor in a clinic setting usually gives the newborn a thorough physical examination after discharge from the hospital within 5 days and at 2 weeks of age. The examination begins with a series of measurements, including weight, length, and head circumference. The average weight at birth is 7 pounds, and the average length is 20 inches, although there is a wide range that is considered normal. Then the doctor examines the newborn’s skin, head and neck, heart and lungs, and abdomen and genitals and assesses the newborn’s nervous system and reflexes. Doctors also routinely do screening tests to detect problems they cannot see during the physical examination.