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Neonatal Jaundice Causes Types And Treatment

Neonatal Jaundice Causes Types And Treatment

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Neonatal Jaundice is a very common condition in newborn babies, characterized by high level of bilirubin (a liver enzyme) in the blood that causes the baby’s skin and eyes to appear yellow.

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

What are the Causes for Neonatal Jaundice in Babies.

Neonatal jaundice generally develops when babies are 2-3 days old. Newborn babies are prone to jaundice because of various reasons.

Excess Bilirubin in Blood After Birth. Shortly after a baby is born, there is a breakdown of RBCs in her body. This breakdown of RBCs creates an excess of bilirubin (link to glossary) in the blood.

Immature Liver. The liver of a newborn baby is immature and incompetent to filter out excess bilirubin from the blood. Before birth, placenta (the organ that nourishes the baby) removes the bilirubin from the infant so that the mother’s liver can flush it out. Post birth, the baby's own liver takes over this job, but does it slowly. The liver gradually gains maturity and in about a week’s time becomes capable of flushing out excess bilirubin.

What are the Various Types of Jaundice.

Jaundice has been classified into different categories depending on the causes:

Physiological Jaundice. It is a very commonly occurring jaundice in newborns. It generally appears on the 2nd or 3rd day of birth and clears off by itself gradually, as the infant’s liver matures.

Breastmilk Jaundice : This is jaundice that persists after physiological jaundice subsides and is seen in the otherwise healthy, full term breastfed baby. There is no known cause for this type of jaundice although speculation is that it may be linked to something in the breast milk that is blocking the breakdown of bilirubin.

Pathological Jaundice. Sometimes however, the bilirubin level may become very high. Pathological Jaundice can occur due to reasons like blood incompatibilities, genetic syndromes, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, bile duct blockage, other liver diseases, infections or medications. It affects children and adults equally.

Pre-maturity Jaundice. This type of Jaundice is seen in premature babies. The liver of these babies take longer time to mature and adjust to excreting bilirubin effectively.

Breastfeeding Jaundice. This type of jaundice may occur in babies due to insufficient feeding of breast milk. It may happen because sometimes the mother's milk takes longer than average to "come in", or because the baby is not latched on properly. This type of jaundice appears in the first week of birth and gets cleared when milk supply increases.

Blood Group Incompatibility (Rh or ABO problems). This occurs when the mother and baby have different blood groups, and especially if the mother falls in blood group O and the baby falls in blood group A, B, or AB. In such cases the mother might produce antibodies that destroy the infant's RBCs. This breakdown of RBCs causes a sudden rise in bilirubin levels in the baby's blood. Incompatibility jaundice usually occurs during the first day of life.

To know the Normal levels of Bilirubin,

Normal levels of bilirubin in blood are:

  • Direct (also called conjugated) bilirubin: 0 to 0.3 mg/dL
  • Total bilirubin: 0.3 to 1.9 mg/dL

Note: mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter.

Rise in the levels of total bilirubin above 5 mg/dL indicates jaundice.

How can you prevent it?

It is normal for newborn babies to have some degree of jaundice. It is important for parents/caregivers to carefully identify infants who are at highest risk.

Testing Pregnant Mothers for Blood Type and Unusual Antibodies. If the mother is Rh negative, it is recommended to do a follow-up testing on the infant's cord. This may also be done if the mother's blood type is O+, but it is not needed if careful monitoring takes place.

Careful Monitoring of Babies During the First 5 Days. This involves considering your baby's risk for jaundice, checking bilirubin level on the first day itself and scheduling at least one follow-up visit during the first week of life if your baby was sent home from the hospital within 72 hours.

Frequent Feeding. Feeding your baby at least 8 to 12 times a day for a few days after birth can significantly reduce the risk of jaundice.

Treating Neonatal Jaundice by Frequent Breastfeeding.

Neonatal Jaundice is atemporary condition and lasts for about 7-10 days in neonates. Breastfeeding plays a significant role in babies’ health. Most mothers wrongly believe that breast milk may harm their baby if she has jaundice. On the contrary, lack of breast milk can be a cause of jaundice in the baby. So, you must breast feed your baby every 2-3 hours.

Most of the times, neonatal jaundice doesn’t need any medical intervention and clears out on its own. Just make sure that your baby is regularly fed and has normal bowel movements. Consult your doctor immediately if the condition does not improve.

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