What is jaundice in newborns?
Jaundice is a
condition that makes a newborn’s skin and the white part of the eyes look
yellow. It happens because there is too much
bilirubin in the baby’s blood (hyperbilirubinemia).
Bilirubin is a substance that is made when the body breaks down old
red blood cells.
Jaundice usually is not
a problem. But in rare cases, too much bilirubin in the blood can cause brain
damage (kernicterus). This can lead to hearing loss, intellectual disability, and behavior problems.
In healthy babies, some
jaundice almost always appears by 2 to 4 days of age. It usually gets better or
goes away on its own within a week or two without causing problems.
In breast-fed babies, mild jaundice sometimes lasts until 10 to 14 days
after birth. In some breast-fed babies, it goes away and then comes back.
Jaundice may last throughout breast-feeding. This isn't usually a problem as
long as the baby gets enough milk by being fed at regular times.
Your doctor probably will ask you to keep checking your baby at home to
make sure the jaundice is going away. Your baby will need a follow-up exam
within the first 5 days after birth. Call your doctor if the yellow color gets
brighter after your baby is 3 days old.
What causes jaundice in newborns?
because your baby’s body has more bilirubin than it can get rid of. Bilirubin
is made when the body breaks down old red blood cells. It leaves the body
through urine and stool. During pregnancy, your body removes bilirubin from
your baby through the
placenta. After birth, your baby’s body must get rid
of the bilirubin on its own.
Breast-fed newborns can become
dehydrated easily if feedings are spaced too far
apart. This lack of enough milk in the body makes it harder for your baby to
get rid of wastes such as bilirubin. Also, some of the things that make up
breast milk can change the way the body removes bilirubin.
cases, too much bilirubin may be caused by infections, a problem with the
baby’s digestive system, or a problem with the mom’s and baby’s blood types
(Rh incompatibility). Your baby may have one of these
problems if jaundice appears less than a day after birth.
What are the symptoms?
Jaundice can make your
baby’s skin and the white part of the baby’s eyes look yellow. You may see the
yellow color between 1 and 4 days after birth. It shows up first in the baby’s
face and chest. Babies who have bilirubin levels that are too high may have a
high-pitched cry. They also may be sluggish and cranky.
How is jaundice in newborns diagnosed?