Yemi could notice the yellow discoloration of the eyelid of her first baby 72 hours after his birth. But this didn’t make much sense to her since this was her first child and she felt it was normal.
The discoloration continued slowly up to the point where her baby could not suck as much as he used to and his cries were becoming uncontrollable. She had no choice than to seek help from her doctor.
And on getting to her doctor, she realized how careless she had being as a mother. Her baby had jaundice!
What Is Jaundice?
When your newborn’s skin and eyes look yellow, it’s possible he may have jaundice. It may seem alarming to you as a mother, but it is a common problem in newborns, and it’s usually harmless. Sometimes it goes away on its own, or your doctor may suggest light therapy or other treatments to take it out.
Jaundice happens when too much of a byproduct of the red blood cell released during their normal breakdown process, builds up in the blood. About 60% of babies get it.
Symptoms of Jaundice?
The first sign of jaundice is the yellowing of a baby’s skin and eyes. The yellowing may begin within 2 to 4 days after birth and may start in the face before spreading down across the body of the baby.
If a finger lightly pressed on a baby’s skin, and it causes that area of skin to become yellow, it’s likely a sign of jaundice.
What Causes Jaundice?
Some of the body’s red blood cells break down every day and produce bilirubin a by product of the blood. It’s the liver’s job to remove it out of the body. When your baby is still in your womb, your liver clears out his bilirubin for him or her.
After birth, your newborn’s liver takes over. At times, baby’s liver is unable to break down bilirubin as quickly as his body makes it, and it starts to build up. As a result of its yellowish color, bilirubin turns your baby’s skin and eyes yellow.
An underlying disorder or disease may cause infant jaundice. In these cases, jaundice appears much earlier or much later than the more common form of infant jaundice. Diseases or conditions that can cause jaundice include:
- Internal bleeding (hemorrhage)
- Infection in your baby’s blood (sepsis)
- Other viral or bacterial infections
- Amismatch between the mother’s blood and the baby’s blood
- Liver issues
- An abnormality of your baby’s red blood cells that causes them to break down rapidly
What are the risk factors for Jaundice?
The major risk factors for jaundice, particularly severe jaundice that can cause complications, include:
- Premature birth
A baby born before due date for delivery may not be able to process the byproduct of the red blood cell (bilirubin’s) as quickly as full-term babies do.
Premature babies also may feed less due to fewer bowel movements, resulting in less bilirubin eliminated through stool.
- Significant bruising during birth
Babies who become bruised during delivery may have higher levels of bilirubin from the breakdown of more red blood cells.
- Blood type
In cases where the mother’s blood type differs from her child’s, he/she may have receive antibodies or proteins through the placenta that cause abnormally rapid breakdown of red blood cells.
Breast-fed babies, particularly those who have difficulty nursing or getting enough fluuids and nutrition from breast-feeding, are at higher risk developing jaundice.
Dehydration and low energy intake may contribute to the onset of jaundice, therefore, your baby must get enough to eat and stay well hydrated.
Complications of Jaundice?
High levels of the by product of blood (bilirubin) that cause severe jaundice can result in serious complications if not treated.
1. Acute Bilirubin Encephalopathy
The byproduct of blood (Bilirubin) is toxic to cells of the brain. If a baby has severe jaundice, there is a risk of bilirubin passing into the brain, a condition called acute bilirubin encephalopathy.
Prompt treatment may prevent significant lasting damage by this condition. Signs of acute bilirubin encephalopathy in a baby with jaundice include:
- Difficulty waking
- High-pitched crying
- Poor sucking or feeding
Kernicterus is the syndrome that occurs if excess bilirubin causes permanent damage to the brain.
In most cases, Kernicterus causes:
- Uncontrolled movements
- Constant upward gaze
- Loss of hearing
- Improper development of tooth enamel
How can newborn jaundice be treated?
Mild jaundice will usually resolve on its own as a baby’s liver begins to grow. Frequent feeding (between 8 to 12 times a day) will help babies pass bilirubin through their bodies.
More severe jaundice may require other treatments. A common and highly effective method called, Photo-therapy, uses light to break down bilirubin in your baby’s body.
In conclusion, Jaundice occurs normally in babies with symptoms of yellow discoloration of the eyelid and body part.
It could last for some couple of days or weeks. Some resolve on their own while other cases require sunlight or photography.
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Infant Jaundice. Accessed on 23rd June, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infant-jaundice/symptoms-causes/syc-20373865
- Santos, M. (2017). Understanding Newborn Jaundice. Accessed on 23rd June, 2020 from https://www.healthline.com/health/newborn-jaundice#symptoms
- Brennad, M. (2019). Does Your Baby Have Jaundice? Accessed on 23rd June, 2020 from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/digestive-diseases-jaundice