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Newborn baby jaundice

Newborn baby jaundice
It is sometimes necessary for new mothers to go home without their newborn babies because of a condition called physiological jaundice. This can be very upsetting and confusing for new parents. Physiological jaundice is usually not a serious problem, but it does need to be treated in order to prevent complications.

According to the website Baby-Care, in the article entitled "Why is My Baby Jaundiced?", jaundice is a term derived from the French language. "Juane" is a French word that means yellow. The same article says almost eighty percent of all premature infants and about fifty percent of all other infants experience some degree of jaundice. Although physiological jaundice is common in newborns, it is a condition that should not be ignored. The website publication entitled "Newborn Jaundice", which was written in 1993 by Arnold Solof, M.D., Archna Jain, M.D., and Judith Hunt M.D., says it is important to treat babies with low levels of bilirubin in their system as well as the ones with higher readings. Without treatment, some babies cannot withstand higher levels and may suffer brain toxicity.

Jaundice, also known as icterus (attributive adjective: "icteric"), is a yellowing of the skin, sclera (the white of the eyes) and mucous membranes caused by increased levels of bilirubin in the human body (or the body of another red blooded animal). Usually the concentration of bilirubin in the blood must exceed 2-3 mg/dL for the coloration to be easily visible. Jaundice comes from the French word jaune, meaning yellow.

Causes of jaundice

When red blood cells die, the heme in their hemoglobin is converted to bilirubin in the spleen and in the Kupffer cells in the liver. The bilirubin is processed by the liver, enters bile and is eventually excreted through feces.
Consequently, there are three different classes of causes for jaundice. Pre-hepatic or hemolytic causes, where too many red blood cells are broken down, hepatic causes where the processing of bilirubin in the liver does not function correctly, and post-hepatic or extrahepatic causes, where the removal of bile is disturbed.

"Newborn Jaundice" provides the following information on some of the causes of jaundice in newborn babies. It says when normal red blood cells deteriorate, they release a chemical called bilirubin. The bilirubin has to pass through the liver before being excreted from the body. Before the birth of the baby, the bilirubin traveled through the placenta and into the mother's liver to be processed and excreted. A newborn baby is sometimes unable to process and excrete the bilirubin fast enough to prevent a build-up in the blood stream. When too much bilirubin collects in the system, the result is yellowish-orange skin and the white portion of the eyes become yellow.

According to the book "Taking Care of Your Child", published in 1990 by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, approximately one or two percent of babies who are breast-fed may experience a small degree of jaundice. This is due to a component in the breast milk that hinders the excretion of bilirubin. The same book says when this type of jaundice occurs, it shows up around the fourth day after birth. "Why is My Baby Jaundiced?" says if breast milk is responsible, the jaundice will become worse between one and two weeks of age. It suggests replacing breast milk with formula for a few days to see if the amount of bilirubin in the system decreases. After the levels are in the normal range, with close monitoring of the infant's blood, the mother can go back to breast feeding.

"Why is My Baby Jaundiced?" says in some cases, jaundice in a newborn baby is due to an underlying illness. It gives examples such as infections, liver problems, ABO blood incompatibility, and RH incompatibility. There are other possibilities as well. The same article says there are routine tests given a birth to check for some of these conditions, but other problems may not show up until weeks later.

"Taking Care of Your Child" provides the following information on treatments for newborn jaundice both in and out of the hospital. It says that natural lighting may be helpful for the baby. However, be sure the sunlight is not directly on the baby's tender skin. Providing more water in the baby's diet can also help decrease levels of bilirubin. According to the severity of the jaundice, the doctor may recommend placing the baby under special fluorescent lighting. While under this type of lighting, the baby's eyes are covered for protection. This special type of lighting helps speed up the breakdown and excretion of bilirubin.

In most cases, newborn jaundice is a temporary condition that is treated successfully with an increase in water and with light therapy. According to "Newborn Jaundice", when the amount of bilirubin in the blood is extremely high and standard treatments are unsuccessful, blood transfusions may be necessary. To be certain levels of bilirubin are decreasing, the blood will be tested in twelve hour increments. The same article says after the baby has left the hospital, the doctor will more than likely want to monitor bilirubin levels until all signs of jaundice are gone.

Neonatal jaundice is usually harmless: this condition is often seen in infants around the second day after birth, lasting till day 8 in normal births, or to around day 14 in premature births. Serum bilirubin normally drops to a low level without any intervention required: the jaundice is presumably a consequence of metabolic and physiological adjustments after birth.

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