Jaundice in Newborns


When a newborn’s skin and eyes appear to have a yellow discoloration, they are said to have infant jaundice.

The main causes of jaundice

Extra bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia) mainly causes jaundice. Bilirubin, which accounts for the yellow color of jaundice, is a part of the pigment produced from the breakdown of “used” red blood cells.

Bilirubin is usually filtered by the liver from the bloodstream and released into the intestinal tract. A newborn baby’s immature liver often cannot eliminate bilirubin quickly enough, which leads to an excess of bilirubin. That’s why infant jaundice is called physiologic jaundice, and it is typically present on the second or third day of life.

Other causes

An underlying disorder may result in jaundice. In these cases, the jaundice is often present much earlier or much later than physiologic jaundice. Diseases or conditions that can lead to jaundice include:

– Internal bleeding (hemorrhage)
– A contamination in the baby’s blood (sepsis)
– Other viral or bacterial infections
– An incompatibility between the mother’s blood and the baby’s blood
– A liver dysfunction
– A deficiency of enzymes
– Red blood cell abnormalities

Main risk factors for jaundice, especially severe jaundice that can result in complications, include:

Premature birth
Babies born before the 38th week cannot process bilirubin as quickly as full-term babies do. Also, they may feed less and have fewer bowel movements, leading to less bilirubin being removed through the stools.
Remarkable bruising during birth 
If babies get bruises from the delivery, they may get a higher level of bilirubin from the breakdown of more red blood cells.
Type of blood.
If the mother’s blood type does not match her baby’s blood, the baby may have received antibodies through the placenta, which causes their blood cells to break down more quickly.
Breastfed babies, especially those who face troubles in nursing or taking enough nutrition from breastfeeding, are at a higher risk of jaundice. Dehydration or a low-calorie level may contribute to the onset of jaundice. However, because of the benefits of breastfeeding certainly outweigh any disadvantages, experts still recommend it.

Symptoms of jaundice

Jaundice is usually found around the second or third day of life. A jaundiced baby’s skin usually will have a yellow shade on the face, then the chest and stomach, and finally, the legs. It can also make the whites of a baby’s eyes become yellow.

Parents also should keep an eye on their baby for jaundice. You can find hard to see jaundice particularly in babies with dark skin. If you are suspecting your baby has jaundice, slightly press the skin on your baby’s nose or forehead — if your baby has jaundice, the skin will have a yellow color when you lift your finger.

Treatment for jaundice

Most newborns with jaundice do not need a treatment. Mild or moderate jaundice will disappear after 1 or 2 weeks when the baby’s body becomes able to remove the excess bilirubin on its own.

More regular feedings of breast milk or supplementing with formula to support infants pass the bilirubin in their stools might be suggested. In some cases, the doctor may recommend a mother to temporarily stop breastfeeding. If this occurs, pump often to keep your body producing breast milk, then begin nursing again once jaundice has disappeared.
For more severe cases, treatment with a special light called phototherapy can help get rid of the bilirubin. If a baby gets severe jaundice that has not responded to other treatments, a transfusion is in order.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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