Jaundice And Your Newborn: Frequently Asked Questions
Several newborns develop jaundice, a condition that causes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. If your newborn is diagnosed with jaundice, you might be concerned about what causes this condition, the treatments, and if jaundice can be the sign of a more serious condition. Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions you might have about newborn jaundice.
What Causes Jaundice?
Jaundice in newborns occurs from elevated levels of bilirubin, which is a naturally occurring product of red blood cells and is yellow in color. Typically, bilirubin is easily broken down in the body and removed by the liver. In newborns, there is sometimes too much bilirubin produced for the newborn's liver to handle, which causes the yellow color of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Typically, jaundice will manifest within the few days after the baby is born and will resolve itself after one to two weeks. In some cases, however, jaundice won't appear until the baby has left the hospital. However, if this occurs, your pediatrician can diagnose jaundice during your newborn's first checkup.
Is Newborn Jaundice Dangerous?
In very rare cases, newborn jaundice can be the sign of a larger problem. Here are few issues that are sometimes related to newborn jaundice:
- Dehydration or lack of nutrients. When babies are exclusively breastfed and the mother isn't producing enough milk, the baby's bilirubin levels can become concentrated and cause jaundice.
- Infection. Infections and intestinal blockages are associated with jaundice.
- Rh incompatibility. When the mother and baby's blood types are different, it can cause an excessive breakdown in red blood and jaundice.
In the majority of cases, the risk factors associated with jaundice will be diagnosed by your pediatrician and the jaundice will be treated.
How Is Jaundice Treated?
When jaundice is mild, it will typically go away on its own in a couple of weeks after birth. If the jaundice is more severe, the pediatrician will recommend a variety of treatments. For example, the newborn may be given extra fluids to flush out the bilirubin. Light therapy is a common treatment for jaundice that involves places the newborn under a specialized light that helps break down the bilirubin so it can be expelled by the newborn.
In more severe cases, the baby will be given a blood transfusion or receive intravenous medications.
Newborn jaundice is a common condition that is typically easily diagnosed and treated. Contact your pediatrician with any questions you have about jaundice. The pediatrician can provide more information.