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Newborn screening program

​​couple with newborn

Sickle cell and hemoglobin disorders


All babies born in California have a routine blood screen shortly after birth. The goal of this newborn screening is to find t​hose at risk for serious medical conditions. Babies can look healthy at birth and still have one of these conditions. 

Sickle cell disease is one of these conditions. Babies with sickle cell disease benefit from early diagnosis and treatment. 

Three types of sickle cell disease are on the list of what the California Newborn Screening Program screens for. They are the following types:

  • Sickle cell anemia (S,S disease)​, 
  • Sickle cell-hemoglobin C disease (S,C disease)​, and 
  • Sickle cell-beta thalassemia (S,ß-thalassemia)​.

What is sickle ce​ll disease?​

Sickle cell disease is a hemoglobin disorder. Hemoglobin disorders affect the body’s ability to have healthy red blood cells. ​​

Oxygen is stored in the red blood cell by the protein hemoglobin. ​​Red blood cells bring oxygen from the lungs to every part of the body. ​​Sickle cell disease causes red blood cells that are stiff and “sickle” shaped. These unusually shaped cells do not deliver oxygen as effectively as usual and can cause health problems. 

​​Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition that is present at birth. A genetic condition cannot be “caught,” like the flu or a cold.​ It is an inherited condition, meaning that it is passed down to children through parents.​​​

What is sickle cell trait?

​​Having a hemoglobin trait means that your baby’s red blood cells have a different type of hemoglobin along with the usual hemoglobin A.

Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells of all people. It gives blood its red color and takes oxygen to all parts of the body. There are many types of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin A is the most common.

A hemoglobin trait is not a disease. It will not change into a disease. But it will not go away either. Most babies with a hemoglobin trait do not have any health problems caused by the trait.

In California, all babies are screened for hemoglobin diseases shortly after birth. The screening method also identifies healthy babies with hemoglobin traits. 

If the results show that a baby has a trait, an important thing to know is at least one of the parents has a hemoglobin trait. If both parents have a trait, this can result in a future baby having a hemoglobin disease, such as sickle cell disease.

Newborn Screening Hemoglobin Trait Follow-up Program

You can learn more about hemoglobin traits and free, voluntary parent and family testing by calling the Newborn Screening Hemoglobin Trait Follow-up Program​ at 1 (866) 954-2229, Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm.

More about sickle cell (and other hemoglobin) trait and disease

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