Why are newborns prone to jaundice?

Newborns with Jaundice - Sriramakrishnahospital

Jaundice – what do you need to know?

Yellowing of the skin, often known as jaundice, is a medical condition. The yellow color is due to bilirubin, a chemical naturally produced by the body. Babies with hyperbilirubinemia, a disorder characterized by elevated bilirubin levels in the blood, turn a yellowish hue due to bilirubin depositing itself in the dermis. 

Babies with darker skin tones may not seem jaundiced while having elevated bilirubin levels in their blood. Spotting jaundice, or yellowing of the palms and soles, in a newborn during the first 24 hours of life is a significant cause for concern. In such a case, doctors will use blood tests to diagnose and treat the condition.

An increased level of bilirubin in the blood is the cause of jaundice, not a disease itself. Hyperbilirubinemia, the cause of jaundice, is not uncomfortable, but it can lead to major health problems if left untreated in some infants. 

This article gives you information on what causes jaundice in newborns and how it can be treated.

Understanding the symptoms of jaundice in a newborn:

When a newborn has jaundice, their skin and the whites of their eyes turn yellow. The face and head are often the first affected areas. If bilirubin levels rise, the body will become discoloured. Some infants may also be sleepy and have trouble eating.

Why is jaundice so common in newborns?

Jaundice in most babies is considered physiological (or “normal”). This is because babies have a higher total blood cell count than adults. A higher amount of bilirubin is produced from the breakdown of these blood cells since they don’t live as long. This jaundice typically manifests itself 2–4 days after birth and clears up when the infant is 2 weeks old.

Here are a few causes of neonatal jaundice that make newborns prone to the condition:

Inadequate feeding:

A lack of breast milk or formula intake will prevent your kid from producing enough feces to eliminate the excess bilirubin. This type of jaundice can be treated by working with a lactation consultant to enhance and prolong breastfeeding or by adding formula to the diet.

Rh incompatibility:

The newborn develops this form of jaundice because the mother has Rh-negative blood and the baby has Rh-positive blood. The combination increases bilirubin because it triggers the production of antibodies in the mother’s blood, accelerating the breakdown of the baby’s red blood cells.

Breast Milk jaundice:

The liver is slowed in its ability to eliminate bilirubin when a woman is breastfeeding. Breast milk jaundice results from consuming breast milk after the first week of life. Over 3-12 weeks, bilirubin levels gradually rise to a normal range.

Premature birth:

Babies born prematurely have a much harder time eliminating bilirubin. Furthermore, they may experience difficulties at bilirubin levels that later-born infants do not. They get help from a doctor for jaundice as soon as possible.

Newborn jaundice – when should you worry:

The following symptoms may indicate severe jaundice or bilirubin-related problems. If you see any of the following, it’s time to call the doctor:

  • Increased yellowing of your baby’s skin
  • If you notice any yellowing of your baby’s skin on the stomach, arms, or legs, you may be experiencing a skin reaction.
  • Your infant has yellow eye whites.
  • Do you notice that your baby is lethargic, unwell, or challenging to wake up?
  • Problems with your baby’s feeding or lack of weight growth
  • Howls of a high pitch are coming from your infant.

If you notice any other symptoms in your infant, it may be time to visit a jaundice specialist in Coimbatore.

Newborn jaundice treatment the available options:

Treatment for jaundice should focus on lowering bilirubin levels as rapidly and safely as possible. Some cases of hyperbilirubinemia in infants are so mild that they require no therapy. Babies with elevated bilirubin levels require the rapid therapy outlined below.

Premature infants often have jaundice (those born before 38 weeks). Hyperbilirubinemia affects premature infants more severely than full-term infants because brain damage develops at lower bilirubin levels in the former. Therefore, premature infants are given the same treatments as full-term infants, albeit with lower bilirubin levels.

Frequent breastfeeding:

  • Because it aids in the excretion of bilirubin in feces and urine, breast milk plays a crucial role in preventing and treating jaundice. 
  • If your infant isn’t getting enough breast milk, you and your doctor might discuss alternatives, such as formula or donor milk. 
  • If your baby has at least six wet diapers a day, their stool changes from dark green to yellow, and they appear happy after feeding; you can be sure they are getting enough milk.

Phototherapy: 

  • Phototherapy, also known as “light” therapy, is the medical treatment of choice for infants with hyperbilirubinemia. 
  • The majority of instances can be treated with just phototherapy. 
  • Bilirubin is broken down into compounds more easily eliminated in feces and urine when exposed to a specific blue light on the baby’s skin. 
  • The vast majority of infants who undergo phototherapy treatment make a full recovery. Early treatment from a neonatologist in Coimbatore can help avoid complications associated with newborn jaundice.

Outlook of the condition:

Newborns with jaundice are typical, so don’t be alarmed if your baby seems yellow. Baby’s bilirubin level should be checked before you leave the NICU hospital and again within five days of birth. Jaundice is typically harmless, but it can be life-threatening if left untreated. It is essential to see a doctor straight away if your newborn baby’s jaundice doesn’t improve or appears to be becoming worse.


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