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Jaundice in Newborns (Hyperbilirubinemia) - Exams and Tests

Your baby's doctor will do a physical exam and take a medical history to diagnose jaundice. As part of the medical history, the doctor may ask questions about:

  • Your general health, particularly during the pregnancy.
  • Whether your baby was born prematurely or at full term.
  • Whether your baby had any difficulties during delivery.
  • Your baby's birth weight and whether there has been any weight gain or loss since birth.
  • Your baby's feeding and elimination habits since birth.
  • Whether the baby and you have incompatible blood types (ABO or Rh incompatibility).
  • Your family history of health conditions that could cause jaundice.

During the exam, the doctor will check your baby's skin color. This may include pressing a finger lightly on your baby's skin. The doctor will note whether yellowing related to jaundice is visible only in the eyes, face, and head or if it is also noticed on the chest and lower body. He or she may also look for signs of underlying conditions that can cause jaundice.

A transcutaneous jaundice meter may be used to measure your baby's bilirubin level. If the results are concerning, a bilirubin test may be done to more precisely measure the bilirubin level in your baby's blood. The results will help your baby's doctor decide whether treatment is needed.

If the doctor thinks that another condition is causing your baby to have too much bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia), more tests may be done. For example, the doctor may do blood type tests if the cause of hyperbilirubinemia could be that you and your baby have different blood types (ABO or Rh incompatibility).

Many mothers and their newborns leave the hospital within 48 hours of the baby's birth, often before signs of jaundice start. Your baby needs a follow-up exam within the first 5 days after birth. Call your baby's doctor if at any time you notice a yellow tinge to your baby's skin and eyes.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 27, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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