Cause and treatment of newborn jaundice

Newborn or Infant Jaundice is the name given to yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It is very common in newborns and usually gets better on its own in around two weeks.

Newborn babies produce large quantities of bilirubin, which is caused due to breakdown of red blood cells. An infant’s liver isn’t mature enough to process bilirubin and pass it through the bowels. The increased amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream causes newborn skin and eyes to turn yellow.

Most babies do not need any treatment or monitoring for jaundice. However, when babies develop high levels of bilirubin, it can be harmful if not treated and can even cause brain damage. If you think your baby is jaundiced, our team of specialists at KIMS Cuddles will be able to help you judge whether your baby needs treatment.

Sometimes, underlying health condition can also cause jaundice in babies. This is known as pathological jaundice. These health conditions include:

  • Congenital Hypothyroidism – A condition where an underactive thyroid gland which doesn’t produce enough hormones.
  • Incompatible blood group – Incompatibility happens when mother’s blood group conflicts with her child. It can cause the mother’s red blood cells to cross into the placenta during the pregnancy. As a result, the mother’s blood cells develop antibodies that can attack newborn’s blood cells and cause jaundice.
  • Rhesus factor disease – It occurs when the mother has rhesus-negative blood and the baby has rhesus-positive blood.
  • Crigler-Najjar SyndromeIt is an inherited condition that affects the enzyme responsible for producing bilirubin.
  • Internal bleeding (hemorrhage)
  • Liver malfunction
  • Urinary tract infection

 

Treatment of Newborn Jaundice

As discussed earlier, most newborn jaundice goes away on its own and doesn’t require any treatment. However, for moderate to severe jaundice, your baby might need to stay in the hospital or readmitted for further treatment, which may include:

  • Phototherapy

Light therapy or phototherapy is the most common method of treatment for jaundice. It uses light to break down the bilirubin in your baby’s body. In phototherapy, your baby is placed on a special bed under a blue-green spectrum light. The light changes the shape and structure of bilirubin in such a way that it can be excreted in the urine and stool. During phototherapy, your baby is made to wear only a diaper and special protective goggles. A fiber-optic pad or mattress may also be placed underneath your baby.

 

In extremely rare cases, when the severe jaundice does not respond to other treatments, a baby might need exchange transfusion of blood. In this process, small amounts of blood are withdrawn repeatedly, bilirubin and maternal antibodies are diluted, and then the blood is transferred back into the baby. This procedure is carried out in a Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

 

The use of Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) in the recent years has significantly reduced the need for exchange transfusion. IVIg is used to treat jaundice caused due to blood group incompatibilities between mother and baby. This results in antibodies from the mother being carried to the baby’s immune system, and results in the breakdown of baby’s blood cells. Intravenous transfusion of immunoglobulin, which is a blood protein, reduces the levels of antibodies and decrease jaundice.

 

Jaundice is often not a cause for major concern in newborns. However, if it requires specialized treatment, rest assured that our team at KIMS Cuddles is well equipped to take care of you and your baby.

 

The opinions presented in this article are not to be substituted for medical advice under any circumstance.

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