Neonatal Jaundice; Causes And Treatment

on Wednesday, 14 December 2011. Posted in Newborn and baby health, Kid's Health Written By: Anupam

Know more about jaundice in newborns and handle it better

Neonatal Jaundice; Causes And Treatment

Neonatal jaundice or jaundice in new borns is a common event and disappears within a few days only. However, it often leaves the new parents all hassled and worried. Knowing more about neo-natal jaundice helps parents cope with in a calm and controlled manner.

In most of the cases neonatal jaundice is not serious in babies. The symptoms usually disappear within a few days, without any lasting effects on the new born. However, care and proper treatment are required during this time and for that, it is important for parents to be well informed.

Neonatal Jaundice

Jaundice that happens to new borns is called neonatal jaundice. It is a condition in which the skin of the infant appears yellow in color. This paleness first shows in the face and then progresses downwards from the chest, to stomach and the toes.

Jaundice trivia:

The term jaundice is derived from the word 'juane', meaning yellow.

Jaundice develops in pre-mature infants more as compared to full-term babies.

Cause of Jaundice:

Jaundice or the yellow color of the skin, occurs as a result of excessive ***bilirubin*** in the infant's blood. When red blood cells break down, they form and release bilirubin in the blood. Small amounts of bilirubin are common in everyone's blood. However, when this pigment's quantity increases in the blood, it gets deposited in the tissues of the skin giving it the characteristic color of jaundice.

Neonatal jaundice happens because of the following reasons:

Physiological jaundice: In case of infants the RBC count is very high. Therefore, as a natural process of breakdown of these excessive RBCs, large amounts of bilirubin are released in the blood stream, leading to neonatal jaundice. A new born baby has a very delicate ***liver***, which cannot take the pressure of processing this excess load of bilirubin as quickly as required. This delayed processing further delays breakdown and excrete of the pigment resulting in its deposition under the skin, causing neonatal jaundice.

Other factors: jaundice in infants may happen when there are conditions such as ***ABO incompatibility*** and ***Rh incompatibility***. Under both these conditions the rate of RBC breakdown becomes very fast and thus, bilirubin is produced in excess.

Physical defects: rarely some infants may have certain organ defects causing problematic elimination of bilirubin from the body.

Treatment for jaundice:

You will usually find the baby developing physiological jaundice within the first three days of birth. It is common for doctors to suggest a blood test, if skin is not showing signs of jaundice clearly. Depending upon test results doctors may guide whether treatment is required or the jaundice is manageable without it.

Normally doctors just suggest mothers take the bay out in the early morning sun and expose the baby's body to sunlight for about half an hour or so. This has to be repeated everyday till jaundice is fully cured within the next ten days.

However, if signs of jaundice are severe, phototherapy may also be suggested, for which the baby is kept under a bililight. This is a series of fluorescent lights placed over t he baby's bed. Exposure to this light changes the structure of bilirubin accumulated just below the skin surface; thereby, making it easier for the liver to excrete it.

Doctors suggest that the baby be undressed completely for maximum exposure and early cure. This treatment might require the baby to be kept under the light for several days. There are no side effects in terms of skin darkening; however, loose and green colored stools might be noticed for the duration of treatment. This treatment is discontinued at the first signs of improvement.

Certain precautions during photo-therapy:

  • It is best to cover the baby's eyes to prevent any exposure to fluorescent light.
  • Keep the body uncovered for maximum exposure.
  • Keep changing the position of the baby from time to time for uniform exposure.
  • It is possible to feed the baby under the light however, instructions from the doctor need to be followed.

Neonatal jaundice can be easily managed with proper care. Parents may often feel the hurry to take their new born baby back home, but it is best to go as per the doctor's advise and take time giving photo-therapy so that complete cure is ensured.

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