Newborn care

Newborn Jaundice: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment And Prevention

What’s Newborn jaundice?

Jaundice in newborns is the yellowing of the skin and eyes of the baby. Newborn jaundice is very common and occurs when babies have a high level of Bilirubin. It is a yellow substance in the blood produced during the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Usually, in babies and adults, the liver processes bilirubin, and it is passed through the intestinal tract. However, in the case of a newborn, the developing liver lacks in removing bilirubin. In most cases, newborn jaundice goes away on its own naturally by keeping them in the sunlight. The baby also develops the liver as he starts eating more due to which bilirubin passes through the body.

In most cases, jaundice disappears within 2 to 3 weeks. If the Jaundice exists longer than 3 weeks then you need to contact the doctor as soon as possible before it gets worse. Also, a high level of bilirubin might put the baby at risk for deafness, cerebral palsy, or other forms of brain damage. Jaundice is very common in newborn babies. It can be cured without any treatment if the circumstances are normal and it has no long term effects. Thus you don’t need to panic just get in touch with your doctor to take proper precautions.

What Causes Newborn Jaundice?

In newborns, Jaundice usually develops after one or two days of delivery. Babies that could be at a higher risk of getting jaundice are:-

  • premature babies (babies that are born before 37 weeks)
  • babies who are unable to get breast milk
  • babies blood type is not compatible with their mother’s blood type

When the blood type of a baby is not compatible with that of their mother then he can develop antibodies that might destroy his red blood cells due to which bilirubin levels rise suddenly.

Other causes of newborn jaundice:-

  • an infection
  • enzyme deficiency
  • liver problems
  • internal bleeding
  • an abnormality in baby’s red blood cells

Symptoms of Newborn Jaundice

When the skin and eyes of the baby start getting yellowish then here is the first sign of Jaundice. The yellowing may start within 2 to 4 days after the delivery and slowly spreads across the body. Bilirubin levels are at their peak between 3 to 7 days of birth. If you press your finger on the skin of your baby then that area will look yellow which is a common sign of jaundice. You can also check for other symptoms like fever, drowsiness, dullness, white stool color, dark urine, and your baby will not drink milk properly.

When to Call a Doctor

Most cases of jaundice are normal, but sometimes jaundice needs immediate medical attention. Severe jaundice increases the risk of bilirubin that might pass into the brain that can cause permanent damage to the brain.

You should contact your doctor if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Jaundice spreading fast,
  • The yellow color of skin deepens,
  • Baby feeds poorly and makes high-pitched cries,
  • The baby is having a fever over 100°F (38°C).

Diagnosis of Newborn Jaundice

Generally, the hospital discharges the mothers and newborns within 72 hours of normal delivery. The parents must bring their babies for a checkup in a few days of birth to check the bilirubin levels. Yellow coloring confirms that a baby has jaundice but the doctor performs additional tests to determine the severity of jaundice. Those babies who develop jaundice in the first 24 hours of life must check their bilirubin levels immediately.

How to Treat Newborn Jaundice?

Mild jaundice will get resolve on its own when the liver of the baby starts to mature. Frequent feedings around 8 to 12 times a day will help baby to pass bilirubin out of their bodies. Severe jaundice requires other treatments and you need a specialist to treat jaundice immediately. Phototherapy is a highly effective method of treatment where light breaks down bilirubin in the body of the baby.

In phototherapy, the baby is placed in a blue spectrum light and he wears only a diaper and protective goggles. A fiber-optic blanket is also placed underneath your baby. Sometimes in severe cases, exchange transfusion is required where small amounts of blood are received from a donor or a blood bank. In this process, the healthy red blood cells replace the damaged blood of the baby. This ultimately increases the red blood cell count and thus reduces bilirubin levels.

Prevention of Newborn Jaundice

There’s no real way to prevent newborn jaundice but during pregnancy, you can have to check your blood type to take precautions and prevention for your baby.

After the delivery of your baby, his blood type is tested whenever necessary. This helps to rule out the possibility of blood type incompatibility that might lead to newborn jaundice. There are ways through which you can prevent your baby from jaundice to get more severe:

  • Make sure your baby is getting enough nutrition through breast milk. You should feed your baby at least 8 to 12 times a day for several days. This ensures that your baby is not having jaundice. This helps bilirubin to pass through his body more effectively and quickly.

  • If you are not breastfeeding your baby, then give your baby about 1 to 2 ounces of milk formula every 2 to 3 hours for the first week. Preterm babies may take smaller amounts of formula and you may also consult with your doctor regarding this. If your baby is not having milk formula properly then consult with your doctor regarding the same.

You need to carefully monitor your baby for at least the first five days of his life. Check his skin and eyes for the symptoms of jaundice to appear. If you notice that your baby has the symptoms of jaundice, then get an appointment with your doctor immediately.

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