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Jaundice And The Newborn Baby

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What Is Jaundice?

The breakdown of red blood cells releases a yellow pigment called Bilirubin. The accumulation of this pigment in the blood leads to Jaundice. 

With the increase in the accumulation of bilirubin, the paleness of the body also increases.

Most of the jaundice cases are of newborns and infants. Adults with weak immune systems can also get affected with Jaundice. 

What Causes Jaundice In Newborns?

1. Psychological Jaundice

It is one of the most prevalent causes of newborn jaundice that is harmless and temporary. This type of disease is discernible within 2-3 days of childbirth. 

It happens because the liver of the newborns is not mature enough to process the bilirubin from the rapid breakdown of RBCs. 

As the liver of the baby matures, the condition of jaundice vanishes.  

2. Premature Birth

When a mother gives birth to her baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called premature birth. The liver of the baby remains immature and lacks the capability of releasing adequate levels of bilirubin. 

The doctor should treat the condition quickly, or it can become fatal. 

3. The Blood Type Of The Baby Differs From Mother

When the blood type of the baby differs from the mother, the mother’s blood starts creating antibodies to fight RBCs of the baby.

It happens when:

  • The Rh factor of the mother is negative, and the baby has a decisive Rh factor. 
  • The mother’s blood is type O, and the baby’s blood type is A or B.

4. Breastfeeding Jaundice

When the newborns don’t get an adequate amount of breast milk, this type of jaundice occurs. It may be due to insufficient production of milk by the mother or due to poor feeding by the baby. 

In this condition, the baby gets dehydrated and experience lesser bowel movements. It will lower the amount of bilirubin excreted from the body, thereby causing jaundice.

5. Breast Milk Jaundice

It happens in the breastfed newborns. The condition is benign and disappears at its own accord. 

It happens because of the presence of a chemical in the milk. It appears within the first week of a baby’s life. Mothers don’t need to stop breastfeeding to cure the condition. 

What Are The Newborn Jaundice Symptoms?

The most common symptoms include paleness of skin and the whites of the eyes(called sclerae). It usually begins from the head and then spreads to other parts of the body. 

Other symptoms of newborn jaundice:

  • Drowsiness
  • Poor feeding
  • Pale stools
  • Dark urine(The urine of the newborn babies are usually colorless)

When the condition becomes severe, a newborn can have the following symptoms as well:

  • Irritability
  • Yellow limbs or abdomen
  • Incompetence for gaining weight

How Is Newborn Jaundice Diagnosed?

In most cases, a pediatrician can diagnose the cause of jaundice just by careful observation. While in some cases, he may order a blood test.

The doctor can detect the bilirubin levels with the test. Based on this test, he may recommend some other criteria for the newborn. Some physicians use a transcutaneous bilirubinometer device to measure the levels of serum bilirubin. This test uses light in place of needles. 

How Is NewBorn Jaundice Treated?

Some of the most effective treatment alternatives include:

1. Exchange Blood Transfusion

In this process, the blood of the child affected with jaundice is taken and replaced with the donor blood or plasma. It is very advantageous and can reverse the symptoms of disease.

Side Effects Of Exchange Blood Transfusion

This treatment can provide the newborn with some of the side effects, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Mild allergic responses

2. Phototherapy

Phototherapy uses a particular type of light for the treatment. By a method called photo-oxidation, it lowers the level of bilirubin in the blood of the newborn. 

Photooxidation adds oxygen to the bilirubin making it easier to get dissolved in water. It leads to a natural breakdown and removal of bilirubin from the blood. 

Types Of Phototherapy

  • Conventional Phototherapy: The baby is laid under a fluorescent lamp or halogen light with their eyes closed.
  • Fibreoptic Phototherapy: Baby is laid in a blanket consisting of fiber-optic cables. The light traverse through the optic cables and gleams over the baby’s back. 

Side Effects Of Phototherapy:

  • Frequent and loose bowel movements
  • Greenish color of stool

3. Intravenous Immunoglobulin

Our body’s immune system produces immunoglobulins that help fight several infections and diseases. 

In the treatment, the immunoglobulin donated by various individuals is provided to the newborn by a drip. 

Side Effects Of Intravenous Immunoglobulin

  • Headache
  • Stomach pain 
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigues
  • Vomiting
  • Chills

How To Prevent Newborn Jaundice?

  • Make sure your baby is getting an adequate amount of fluids.
  • If you face any issue while breaStfeeding your baby, talk to a lactation consultant, and get assistance. 

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Photo of author Janet Fudge
Jim Carson is a highly skilled and dedicated medical writer passionate about advancing medical practice. With years of experience in the field of medical sciences, Jim has made significant contributions to various studies aimed at improving healthcare outcomes. He currently writes for, providing expert insights and knowledge on various topics. Jim's expertise extends to various areas, including drug interactions, dosages, side effects, and best practices for medication use. In Los Angeles, Jim lives with his loving wife, children, and beloved pets. He deeply values spending time with his family and cherishes their presence. When he's not writing, Jim enjoys watching football games and staying updated with the latest sports news. Jim's writing shines through his commitment to advancing medical practice and improving healthcare outcomes. Readers can trust Jim's articles to be informative, accurate, and reliable, making him a trusted pharmaceutical information source for the website's audience.
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