Physical Exam of the Newborn

February 23, 2018

Physical Exam of the Newborn

Checking newborn baby boy heart rate with a stethoscope.

A complete physical exam is an important part of newborn care. Each body system is carefully checked for signs of health and normal function. The healthcare provider 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.

    • Blood pressure. Normally an upper number (systolic) between 60 and 80, and a lower number (diastolic) between 30 and 45.

    • Oxygen saturation. Normally 95% to 100% on room air.

  • 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, and shaping of the head from passage through the birth canal (molding)

    • The open soft spots between the bones of the baby's skull (fontanels)

    • Bones across the upper chest (clavicles)

  • 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.


February 23, 2018


Assessment of the Newborn Infant. UpToDate., Lewis, Mary L. A Comprehensive Newborn Examination: Part I. General, Head and Neck, Cardiopulmonary. American Family Physician. 2014: issue 90, 5th ed. pp. 289-296., Lewis, Mary L. A Comprehensive Newborn Examination: Part II. Skin, Trunk, Extremities, Neurologic. American Family Physician. 2014: issue 90, 5th ed. pp. 297-302., Narins, Brigham. Physical Examination. The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. 3rd ed. pp. 2617-2620.

Reviewed By:  

Adler, Liora C., MD,Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP,Image Reviewed by Staywell medical art team.