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Jaundice in Your Newborn: Understanding It

Whether a baby or even a full grown adult, the basic reason why a person suffers from jaundice is the presence of excessive of the enzyme called bilirubin in the circulatory system.

Technically, a normal amount of bilirubin is produced in every living human being when the red blood cells (RBCs) are broken down or degenerate after their normal life span.

This results in the formation of a yellow or straw colored substance called bilirubin, and it is removed by the body with the feces. However, when hyper hyperbilirubinaemia or jaundice happens, the body is not fully able to remove the bilirubin from its system.

Although in adults jaundice can happen anytime, usually babies when they are 1 to 2 weeks old, may suffer from jaundice.

It usually cures itself, but it is best to consult a trusted physician during that tenure. Nonetheless, let’s a brief look as to what are the main causes of jaundice in a newborn baby:

Causes of Jaundice in a Newborn Baby:

  • Underdeveloped liver: The most common cause of jaundice in babies is underdeveloped liver. Newborn babies have a very high number of red blood cells which are broken down very quickly and easily, resulting in a rather high amount of production of bilirubin. When the liver is underdeveloped, it cannot process the bilirubin so fast, and this results in jaundice. Usually, this happens in babies born prematurely.
  • Blood infection: Also known as sepsis, it is a bacterial infection of the blood which also causes a loss in appetite and a lower body temperature. This happens when the baby is either born prematurely or has an underdeveloped or compromised immune system. As a result, their blood does not have the antibodies to fight bacterial infection.
  • Blood incompatibility: usually when the mother’s blood is incompatible with that of the baby that she is carrying, it results in the baby developing jaundice. This is because the antibodies from the mother’s blood thinks that the baby’s blood cells are foreign objects and starts breaking them down.
  • Breastfeeding: When the baby is not breastfed enough or if the mother’s body is not producing enough milk, then it can often contribute to jaundice in the newborn babies.
  • Mother having jaundice: If the mother has underlying jaundice or if she is being treated for jaundice, then chances are that if she is breastfeeding her newborn child, the child may potentially develop jaundice as well.
  • Hypothyroidism: When the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, then the condition of hypothyroidism develops in newborn babies. One of the worst case results of hypothyroidism is jaundice.
  • Other causes: Apart from these, jaundice can occur in newborns due to a number of reasons like Rhesus incompatibility, that is when the mother has a negative blood group and the baby has a positive blood group, or due to a urinary tract infection, due to some drugs that the mother may have taken during her pregnancy and so on.

Symptoms of Jaundice in a Newborn Baby:

Let’s take a brief look at some of the most common and tell-tale symptoms of jaundice in a newborn baby:

  • The first and the most obvious sign is that the skin of the baby will start to look slightly yellow.
  • If the baby is dark skinned, then detection maybe difficult. In such cases, the whites of their eyes, insides of their mouths as well as their palms may be checked, which will appear to be yellow as well.
  • Their urine maybe yellow or straw colored. A healthy baby’s urine should usually be colorless.
  • Their feces will be pale or almost white colored. Usually, if they are healthy, their feces will be dark or yellow colored.
  • Babies with jaundice tend to have a reduced appetite and will not eat anything, or will hardly be willing to breastfeed.
  • Babies who develop jaundice also have a difficult time falling asleep naturally. Usually, a healthy newborn will not have any difficulty in sleeping after birth.

Treatments for Jaundice in Newborn Babies:

Usually jaundice in newborn babies heals itself within three weeks. However, if the symptoms persist even after three weeks, then it is a matter if concern and you should definitely visit a trusted doctor.

They usually perform a number of blood tests as well as liver tests to determine the extent and the intensity of the disease and the correct course of treatment.

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg): When the mother has a negative type blood and the baby has positive, the antibodies in the mother’s blood causes the breakdown of the baby’s Rde Blood Cells, resulting in formation of bilirubin. Intravenous transfusion of an immunoglobulin, is when the blood protein immunoglobulin is given artificially and it reduces the number of antibodies in the mother’s body, resulting in the lessening of breakdown of the RBCs.
  • Phototherapy: This involves placing the bay underneath artificially designed lights, because the special light can breakdown the bilirubin, oxidizing it making it easier for the liver to process it since it can easily be dissolved in water. Your baby can either be directly placed under a special light, which is called conventional phototherapy, or the baby can be wrapped in a special fibreoptic blanket, which is called fibreoptic phototherapy.
  • Exchange transfusion: The exchange transfusion is the last and most extreme method of treatment, usually done when all other forms of treatments fail. It involves repeatedly taking small amounts of blood directly from the baby after regular intervals and removing the antibodies obtained from the mother through the placenta as well as diluting the high levels of bilirubin before pumping it back into the baby’s circulatory system.

In some intense cases, a combination of two or more of the above mentioned forms of treatment is done.

At Home Treatments for Jaundice:

If your bundle of joy suffers from a very mild case of newborn jaundice, and has been approved by the doctors to be taken back to home, then rest assured, he or she will get back to good health in no time. However, below are a few natural ways in which you can help them get better sooner:

  • Place them near sunlight: The idea is that the sunlight that the baby’s skin gets in contact with directly, will be extremely helpful in naturally breaking down the bilirubin molecules, which in turn, be easier for the liver to process and excrete along with regular feces.
  • Breastfeeding: If the jaundice is related to breastfeeding problems, then make sure that you regularly breastfeed your baby and after every one or two hours. In fact, in such cases, doctors usually also provide special formulas along with mother’s milk.
  • Natural/ organic supplements: Things like catnip and dandelion tea can help flush out the toxins, but since it cannot be directly given to the newborn baby, the best way is for the mother to consume it directly so that the baby derives it through breast milk.

How to Avoid Jaundice in Your Newborn Baby:

It is usually difficult to “avoid” jaundice in your newborn baby, as such, because it is usually detected after the baby is born. Nonetheless, there are a few things you can dot to determine the risk factor for your health as that of the baby:

  • Get blood tests: Not only do you have to regularly get your blood tested to determine if everything is okay with you, additional blood tests to determine Rh compatibility can also tell you if your baby will be born Rh positive or negative.
  • Make sure that you are doing every step advised by your doctor or midwife in your prenatal care plan. This means regularly taking your vitamins, minerals as well as other drugs advised to you, regularly getting full hours of sleep and so on.
  • At all costs should the expecting mother avoid drinking alcohol, smoking and chewing tobacco. In fact, it is also a good idea to avoid going to places where the mother is likely to be directly exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • It is also important that during the tenure of your pregnancy as well as childbirth, the mother remain as calm and stress free as possible because not only can anxiety and stress put the health of the mother at risk, but it can severely affect the health of the baby as well.
  • The first milk of the mother, called colostrum is extremely important, and under no circumstances is the baby to be fed anything but colostrum during his or her first feeding. In fact, you should not even give your baby plain water at first.
  • Be aware of how and what your baby’s condition is. The first step to having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby is to be aware of the risks. Therefore, know what prenatal jaundice means and the possible symptoms and outcomes of it are.

So, there you have it- a 101 guide to newborn jaundice. However, no matter how much you read and learn, you should always consult a doctor for their medical advice.

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