We have seen babies in television commercials who reflect luminous and flawless skin making us imagine how our babies would probably have the same fair skin too! However, these things are not always true to life. Many normal, healthy newborns have a yellowish tinge to their skin or sometimes on the white of the eyes. This is known as newborn jaundice.
Jaundice is one of the most common conditions that can affect newborn babies. It's estimated 6 out of every 10 babies develop jaundice, including 8 out of 10 babies born prematurely (babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy). However, only around 1 in 20 babies has a blood bilirubin level high enough to need treatment.
The symptoms of newborn jaundice usually develop two to three days after the birth and tend to get better without treatment by the time the baby is about two weeks old.
Other symptoms of newborn jaundice can include:
- yellowing of the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
- dark, yellow urine – a newborn baby's urine should be colourless
- palecoloured poo – it should be yellow or orange
Jaundice are caused by buildup of a chemical called bilirubin in the child’s blood. Bilirubin is formed from the body’s normal breakdown of red blood cells. This occurs most often when the immature liver has not yet begun to efficiently do its job of removing bilirubin from the bloodstream.
Newborn jaundice isn't usually a cause for concern and often resolves within two weeks without treatment. Mild infant jaundice often disappears on its own within two or three weeks. For moderate or severe jaundice, your baby may need to stay longer in the newborn nursery or be readmitted to the hospital. For reasons that are unclear, breastfeeding a baby increases the risk of them developing jaundice, which can often persist for a month or longer. In most cases, the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh any risks associated with jaundice.
Your baby will be examined for signs of jaundice within 72 hours of being born, during the newborn physical examination.
If your baby develops signs of jaundice after this time, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP as soon as possible for advice. While jaundice isn't usually a cause for concern, it's important to determine whether your baby needs treatment. If your baby is being monitored for jaundice at home, it's also important to contact your midwife urgently if their symptoms quickly get worse or they become very reluctant to feed.
There are two main treatments that can be carried out in hospital to quickly reduce your baby's bilirubin levels. These are:
- phototherapy – a special type of light shines on the skin, which alters the bilirubin into a form that can be more easily broken down by the liver
- an exchange transfusion – a type of blood transfusion where small amounts of your baby's blood are removed and replaced with blood from a matching donor
According to experts, most babies respond well to treatment and can leave hospital after a few days so no need to worry so much!
Please let us know your thoughts and experiences about newborn jaundice by commenting below. We would be happy to hear from you!
Common Newborn Ailments by Kristen Finello:
http://goo.gl/CTAYfk Common Conditions in Newborn by heathychilodre.org:
https://goo.gl/HIH9XP Newborn Jaundice by NHS Choices: