Health Library

Health Library

Physical Exam of the Newborn

Picture of a physician listening to a newborn

A complete physical exam is an important part of newborn care. Each body system is carefully examined for signs of health and normal function. The doctor also looks for any signs of illness or birth defects. Physical exam of a newborn often includes assessment of the following:

  • Vital signs:

    • Temperature. Able to maintain stable body temperature of 97.0°F to 98.6°F (36.1°C to 37°C) in normal room environment

    • Heartbeat. Normally 120 to 160 beats per minute. It may be much slower when an infant sleeps.

    • Breathing rate. Normally 40 to 60 breaths per minute

  • General appearance. Physical activity, muscle tone, posture, and level of consciousness or whether or not an infant is awake and alert

  • Skin. Color, texture, nails, presence of rashes

  • Head and neck:

    • Appearance, shape, presence of molding (shaping of the head from passage through the birth canal)

    • Fontanels (the open "soft spots" between the bones of the baby's skull)

    • Clavicles (bones across the upper chest)

  • Face. Eyes, ears, nose, cheeks. Presence of red reflex in the eyes

  • Mouth. Roof of the mouth (palate), tongue, throat

  • Lungs. Breath sounds, breathing pattern

  • Heart sounds and femoral (in the groin) pulses

  • Abdomen. Presence of masses or hernias

  • Genitals and anus. Open passage for of urine and stool and normally formed male and female genitals

  • Nerves. Reflexes (for example, the Moro or startle reflex), cranial nerves (for example, eye movement), abnormal (or lack of) movements

  • Arms and legs. Movement and development

Physical Exam of the Newborn - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2014-11-03T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2014-11-04T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2014-11-04T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2015 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×