I was not familiar with jaundice until my daughter was born. Before we left the hospital, she was diagnosed with neonatal jaundice. Following this frightening occurrence, I learned many things about the condition. Neonatal jaundice is the most commonly treated condition in newborns.
What is Neonatal Jaundice?
Jaundice is caused by a buildup of a substance called bilirubin. This substance sometimes cannot be removed through the newborn’s kidneys. Bilirubin is generated by the normal breakdown of red blood cells, but cannot be removed properly in fifty percent of newborns. This applies to both full term babies and preemies.
Fortunately my daughter only had a mild case of jaundice. Her excess bilirubin was broken down by a treatment called phototherapy (exposure to light). A mild case of jaundice does not normally cause serious problems for the infant. The condition, called hyperbilirubinemia, may require treatment.
A more severe bilirubin presence, called Kernicterus, may occur in infants. This condition may cause brain damage if not quickly and properly treated. Neonatal jaundice sometimes occurs in breastfeeding babies, as a result of their not getting enough milk.
Symptoms of Jaundice
Forms of jaundice are first noted with the same symptom, yellowing of the skin. In more severe cases, the whites of the eyes may develop a yellow tint.
I am glad to have this chance to write about neonatal jaundice, as I expect many young mothers may be unaware of the condition. I did not know about neonatal jaundice before my daughter’s birth. Fortunately, we remained in the hospital long enough for the doctors to diagnose the condition in my child.
Detecting the Condition
As birthing visits to the hospital are much shorter now, your new baby may develop neonatal jaundice after you go home. Neonatal jaundice usually develops in the week after birth. If you leave the hospital quickly after giving birth, it is important for a physician to check your baby soon for jaundice. This may require a bilirubin test.
The bilirubin test for infants checks liver function and bilirubin count. Some infants with neonatal jaundice require treatment. My daughter was treated by phototherapy, sessions under a hanging light that turns bilirubin into a substance the baby can pass. Bilirubin levels are checked regularly during the treatment phase. She only required a few days of phototherapy, however, it seemed like an eternity at the time. She went on to be a bright and well-developed adult.
Since that time, innovative minds have developed the biliblanket, which works in the same manner as a hanging light. It is a covered, fiber optic pad that provides the right kind of light for twenty four hours a day, if needed. The unclothed baby can spend as much time as needed wrapped in the biliblanket.