What Every Parent Should Know About Neonatal (New born) Jaundice

Newborn jaundice (or neonatal jaundice) is a common condition that affects many newborn babies. It is estimated that Jaundice of the newborn affects up to 85% of all newborns. While jaundice is usually harmless and resolves itself (usually within 5 days), it is important for parents to be aware of the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available. This article will provide an overview of what every parent should know about neonatal jaundice.

What is neonatal Jaundice? 

As a parent, it is important to be aware of what neonatal jaundice is and how it can affect your newborn baby. Neonatal jaundice is a condition where bilirubin builds up in the bloodstream, causing yellowing of the skin and eyes. In newborn babies, their liver may not be fully developed yet, so it may have difficulty breaking down bilirubin, leading to an excess in the bloodstream. 

If you notice your baby’s skin or eyes turning yellow, it is important to consult a neonatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Although most cases of neonatal jaundice do not require treatment, severe cases can lead to serious complications if left untreated. In the next section, we will explore the causes of neonatal jaundice.

Neonatal Jaundice

Neonatal jaundice seems like a common condition in newborn babies, but what exactly causes it? There are several factors that can contribute to a baby developing neonatal jaundice

As mentioned earlier, one common cause is an excess of bilirubin in the baby’s blood, which is a waste product that is created when red blood cells break down. In newborns, the liver is not yet fully developed, so it may not be able to process this bilirubin as quickly as it needs to be. This can lead to a buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream, which causes the yellowing of the skin and eyes that is characteristic of neonatal jaundice.

Other factors that can contribute to neonatal jaundice include certain medical conditions that affect the liver or red blood cells, such as hepatitis, anemia, or blood group incompatibility between the baby and the mother. Premature babies are also at higher risk of developing neonatal jaundice, as their livers are not yet fully matured. 

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Symptoms of Neonatal Jaundice

Neonatal jaundice can cause a number of symptoms that can indicate a problem in your newborn baby. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes 
  • Difficulty in feeding
  • Lethargy and lack of interest in the surroundings
  • Dark urine and pale stools
  • A high-pitched cry

For Indian skin tones that are usually dark, it may not be easy to tell if your baby has the symptoms. However, being attentive to the other indicators is important to gauge your baby’s health. 

If you notice any of these symptoms in your newborn baby, it is important to seek medical advice from a neonatologist. They can help you understand the severity of your baby’s condition and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Treatment for Neonatal Jaundice

If your baby has high levels of bilirubin, treatment will be necessary to prevent the complication of kernicterus, which can cause brain damage. It’s important to note that not all babies with jaundice require treatment. Your neonatologist will closely monitor your baby’s bilirubin levels to determine if treatment is needed.

The good news is that your baby can continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed while receiving treatment. 

Phototherapy is a common treatment for neonatal jaundice, which involves exposing your baby’s skin to special lights that break down bilirubin. There are two types of phototherapy available: conventional phototherapy and fiberoptic phototherapy.

During phototherapy, your baby’s bilirubin levels will be tested regularly to ensure that the treatment is working. Once the bilirubin level falls to a safe level, phototherapy will be stopped. This treatment has very few side effects, except for a temporary rash or tan.

In rare cases where the levels of bilirubin are extremely high or phototherapy hasn’t been effective, an exchange transfusion may be recommended. This involves replacing your baby’s blood with a donor’s blood to reduce the levels of bilirubin.

Another option that your neonatologist may suggest is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) if phototherapy has not worked and the bilirubin levels are rising. IVIG involves giving your baby a dose of antibodies to help break down the excess bilirubin in the blood.

If you suspect that your baby may have jaundice, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your neonatologist can determine if treatment is necessary and provide you with guidance on how to care for your baby at home. With prompt medical attention and the right treatment, your baby can recover from neonatal jaundice without any long-term complications.

Overall, being aware of the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for neonatal jaundice can help you be better prepared to care for your newborn baby’s health and well-being. Always consult your pediatrician for professional advice and guidance.