Neonatal jaundice is the yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes of a newborn, that occurs due to the excess accumulation of a substance called bilirubin beneath the skin. Bilirubin is normally produced in the body when old red blood cells are broken down and removed by the liver
What Causes Neonatal Jaundice?
Physiological jaundice: Newborns often have a faster breakdown of red blood cells during the first few days after birth, and their liver might not be able to remove it efficiently, leading to jaundice
Other causes: Neonatal jaundice can be an indicator of an underlying health problem, such as:
Liver disease or malformation
Red blood cells abnormality
Incompatibility with mother’s blood (different blood types)
How Is Neonatal Jaundice Diagnosed?
Visible yellowish discoloration of the skin
Blood tests to measure bilirubin level in blood
Other blood and urine tests for suspected underlying disease
How Is Neonatal Jaundice Treated?
Mild jaundice does not need any treatment and disappears by itself within a week or two
Moderate or severe cases need treatment such as:
Light therapy: Enabling bilirubin excretion through stools and urine
Blood exchange transfusion: Baby’s blood is removed and replaced with suitable donor blood
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG): Used when jaundice arises due to incompatibility between mother’s and baby’s blood groups
What Are The Possible Complications of Neonatal Jaundice?
Acute bilirubin encephalopathy: Caused due to high levels of bilirubin affecting the brain characterized by symptoms such as:
Difficulty in waking
This can also lead to permanent damage of the brain causing hearing loss and uncontrolled movements
Can I Prevent The Risk Of Jaundice To My Baby?
Yes. Feeding (especially breastfeeding) your baby frequently in the first hours and days after his birth helps reduce the risk of jaundice. Feeding often will make your baby pass more stool. The milk also gives your baby’s liver the energy it needs to process the bilirubin. Your baby’s stool should turn from dark green to yellow.
If you are having trouble breastfeeding, you may have to offer your baby supplementary feeds of formula to avoid dehydration and to keep jaundice from getting worse.
Take Away Message
Neonatal jaundice in many cases may disappear by itself. However, providing appropriate treatment to prevent complications and adequate feeding of your baby will help in speedy recovery.
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