Every New Parent Should Know

Every New Parent Should Know

Newborn jaundice is a condition where a newborn’s skin and eyes turn yellow because a high level of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced during normal breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice is one of the most common conditions in newborns that requires medical attention. Approximately 50% of term babies and up to 80% of preterm babies develop jaundice in the first week of life. Since jaundice in newborns, if left untreated, might lead to serious complications, parents need to know jaundice and its related conditions in order to seek medical assistance as soon as the abnormalities are noticed.

Get To Know Jaundice In Newborns

Jaundice in newborns is a condition where a newborn baby’s skin and eye turn yellow because an excessive amount of bilirubin is produced or because the liver cannot get rid of bilirubin quickly enough. Bilirubin is a brownish-yellow substance that is produced after red blood cells break down. The body excretes bilirubin through the stool and urine. Newborns usually develop jaundice on the 2nd or 3rd day after birth and it is normally noticed by the obstetricians. Apart from the baby’s appearance, it might be necessary to measure the level of bilirubin in the baby’s blood. The level of detected bilirubin determines severity of jaundice and the course of treatment.

Causes Of Jaundice 

There are 2 major causes of newborn jaundice:

1. Physiological jaundice:

Excess bilirubin is the main cause of physiological jaundice. Newborns usually produce more bilirubin than adults do because of greater production and faster breakdown of red blood cells in the first days of life. Normally, the liver filters bilirubin from the bloodstream and releases it into the intestinal tract for excretion. A newborn’s liver is immature and it cannot remove bilirubin quickly enough, causing an excess of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Jaundice due to these normal newborn conditions typically disappears within 1-2 weeks after birth.

2. Pathological jaundice:

Some underlying disorders may cause infant jaundice. Diseases or conditions that can cause pathological jaundice include:

  • An incompatibility between the mother’s blood and the baby’s blood e.g. mother has O blood type while baby has A or B blood type or mother has Rh negative type and baby has Rh positive type.
  • An abnormality of baby’s red blood cells that causes them to break down rapidly e.g. a genetic disorder “G6PD deficiency”.
  • Excessive amount of red blood cells in infants due to diabetic mothers.
  • Breastfeeding jaundice most often occurs in the first week of life when breastfeeding is being established. Newborns may not receive optimal milk intake which leads to elevated bilirubin levels due to increased reabsorption of bilirubin in the intestines. Inadequate milk intake might involve wrong position of breastfeeding or the abnormalities of babies e.g. preterm birth, low birth weight and babies with tongue-tie which is linked to breastfeeding difficulties.
  • Other causes e.g. liver malfunction, bile duct stricture (yellowish skin presented with pale feces), thyroid disorders and sepsis.

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