The Signs and Symptoms of Jaundice in a Newborn Baby
The baby has arrived - but he's yellow?
Well my long awaited little Zachary Alan has arrived - Grandma and Grandpa's special little package of joy: our very first grand-baby!! Needless to say, we are overjoyed, and today, also worried as little Zach has a severe case of jaundice.
I wasn't really very worried when I found out he had jaundice, as I know jaundice is pretty common in newborns (about 6 out of 10 newborns develop jaundice) - but became more worried today when I found out his case was getting worse instead of better.
Being the always observant researcher in the family - and since Zach's mom can't do the research herself (she is still in the hospital) , I decided to learn more about the signs and symptoms of jaundice in newborns, and what exactly causes jaundice in babies.
The symptoms of jaundice in a newborn baby
The main symptom is a yellow color of the skin. The yellow color is best seen right after gently pressing a finger onto the skin. The color sometimes begins on the face and then moves down to the chest, belly area, legs, and soles of the feet.
Sometimes, infants with significant jaundice have extreme tiredness and poor feeding.
In Zach's case, the symptoms did not show up till 2 days after his birth, when his eyes and skin had a slightly yellowish tinge to them. As the days have gone by the yellow tinge has become more pronounced and he actually looks more orange than yellow now.
Jaundice is caused by the build-up of a pigment, called bilirubin, in the blood. In most cases, jaundice goes away without treatment and does not harm the baby.
A common reason for the build-up of bilirubin is that the liver of a newborn is immature.
If you are a mother of a newborn baby
If you are the mother of a newborn, there are some important things to watch for in your newborn baby. Although some infants show signs of jaundice before they leave the hospital, like Zachary did, some newborns may not get jaundice till after they go home:
Jaundice occurs in about 6 out of every 10 newborns. Premature babies (those born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) are more likely to develop jaundice than full-term babies.
Occasionally, babies develop severe jaundice. Without treatment, this can pose a risk of permanent brain damage. (Bilirubin can deposit in the brain when blood levels are very high.)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all babies be checked for jaundice before they leave the hospital after birth. Babies should be checked again by a provider at 3 to 5 days of age. This is the time when bilirubin levels are usually highest.
So if you are in the hospital, or at home with the baby, and notice signs of yellowing skin or eyes, make sure you tell your baby's doctor. In Zach's case it was diagnosed in the hospital, and treatment with special lights (called photo-therapy) has begun. He is now on day 3 of treatment, and unfortunately, he has not responded well to treatment, which is unusual. Most babies respond well and are over jaundice within 1-2 weeks. Some babies like Zach may need more intensive treatment.
(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer/publisher here on the Internet)
More In Depth Information on Newborn Jaundice
- MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Newborn jaundice
A medical Encyclopedia article about Newborn jaundice, the causes, symptoms and outlook for jaundice. Good information for new mothers and mothers of babies that may have jaundice or are getting jaundice.
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