All about Jaundice

What is Newborn Jaundice?

Jaundice is a yellow colour of the skin and/or eyes which occurs when there is too much bilirubin in baby’s blood. It is common in newborn infants. Some babies get jaundice when they are two or three days old. For most babies, this jaundice is not harmful.

What causes Jaundice?

As the fetal red blood cells break down, bilirubin is formed. Before baby’s birth, the mother’s liver removes the bilirubin. After birth, baby has to do it himself. Until baby’s liver does this well, some bilirubin is released into the bloodstream. This may cause the baby’s skin and/or eyes to turn yellow. Some health problems can make jaundice worse.

These include:

• A baby born too early.

• Infection.

• Severe bruising.

What are the Signs of Jaundice?

• Yellow skin colour

• Whites of eyes are yellow

• Very tired and sleepy

• Not feeding

• Weight loss (more than 7%)
Are There Different Types of Jaundice?

There are two types of jaundice:

  1. Physiological/Normal Jaundice: This jaundice occurs in many newborns. It goes away as the liver matures and it isn’t usually harmful to the baby.
  2. Pathological Jaundice: This jaundice is usually caused from problems with
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    mom or baby. It occurs less often in infants. Diagnosis and treatment are required. It may occur at any stage of life.

What is the Treatment for Jaundice?
If your health care provider is concerned, a small amount of blood will be taken from your baby’s heel to measure the bilirubin in the blood.

If the bilirubin level doesn’t go down on its own, your baby’s doctor may decide to use phototherapy. Phototherapy breaks down bilirubin with special lights that shine on your baby’s skin. To have phototherapy your baby will wear little or no clothing, and will be placed in an incubator called an isolette.

Your baby’s eyes will be protected with eye patches. Phototherapy is used until blood tests show that your baby’s bilirubin is returning to normal.

How do I Care for my Baby with Jaundice?

When your baby has jaundice you will need to feed him more often. Frequent breastfeeding (every 1 1/2 – 2 hours) or formula feeding (every 2 – 3 hours) is an excellent way to treat mild cases of jaundice. This helps your baby to get rid of the bilirubin through his bowel movements.

When Does Jaundice go away?
Normal, or physiological jaundice may take 1 to 2 weeks to go away completely. After you go home, your baby may need to return to the doctor to have another blood test done. The blood test will check to make sure your baby’s bilirubin level is not getting higher.

Written by Health Canada

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