What is jaundice in newborns?
What causes jaundice in newborns?
Jaundice occurs because your baby’s body has more bilirubin than it can get rid of. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that’s made when the body breaks down old red blood cells. It leaves the body through urine and stool.
Babies at highest risk for developing newborn jaundice are:
- premature babies, or babies born before 37 weeks’ gestation
- babies who aren’t getting enough breast milk, either because they are having a hard time feeding or because their mothers’ milk isn’t in yet
- babies whose blood type isn’t compatible with the blood type of their mother
Other causes of newborn jaundice include:
- bruising at birth or other internal bleeding
- liver problems
- an infection
- an enzyme deficiency
- an abnormality in your baby’s red blood cells
How Is Newborn Jaundice Diagnosed?
A distinct yellow coloring confirms that a baby has jaundice, but additional tests are necessary to determine the severity of the jaundice.
Babies who develop jaundice in the first 24 hours of life should have bilirubin levels measured immediately, either through a skin or blood test.
How Is Newborn Jaundice Treated?
Complications that could occur from infant jaundice?
- Acute bilirubin encephalopathy – a condition caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the brain (bilirubin is toxic to brain cells). Signs of acute bilirubin encephalopathy in a baby with jaundice include fever, sluggishness, high-pitched crying, poor feeding, and arching of the body or neck. Immediate treatment may prevent further damage.
- Kernicterus (nuclear jaundice) – a potentially fatal syndrome that occurs if acute bilirubin encephalopathy causes permanent brain damage.