Many newborn babies develop jaundice, also known as hyperbilirubinemia. This usually happens within two to four days after birth as a result of high bilirubin levels. Bilirubin is a waste material which results from breakdown of blood cells. The liver of a more mature individual has the ability to filter out bilirubin and eliminate it from the body. However, a newborn’s liver has not developed enough to deal with the bilrubin. But, is there a way to prevent jaundice in newborns?
Some blood incompatibilities cause breakdown of higher amounts of blood cells, which leads to high levels of bilirubin.
Decreasing the risk of preterm delivery is one way how to prevent jaundice in newborns. Preterm babies born before 38 weeks are more likely to develop jaundice because its liver is not fully developed when compared to a baby born after the 38th week.
In the event that your ways how to prevent jaundice in newborns were unsuccessful, the obvious symptom of jaundice is the appearance of yellowing of the whites of the infant’s eyes and skin. This will usually appear 2-4 days since birth.
Check if your baby has jaundice by gently pressing his nose or forehead. Appearance of yellow color on the pressed part of skin indicates the presence of jaundice. In case of absence of jaundice, pressing your baby’s skin will only cause it to appear a little lighter. For reliable results, carry out the test in natural daylight or in a well lit place.
Your baby will normally be examined for jaundice prior to discharge as per recommendations of The American Academy of Pediatrics. Examination is also carried out during normal medical checks as well as once every 8-12 hours during hospital stay.
It is also necessary for your baby to be examined for jaundice between 3-7 days since birth since bilirubin levels are usually highest in this period. In case of discharge before 72 hours after birth, ensure that you take him back for examination for jaundice within two days following discharge.
Consult the doctor in case of the following signs which may indicate that your child has severe jaundice or complications of excess bilirubin:
Most cases of mild jaundice resolve on their own as the baby’s liver matures. For faster recovery, ensure that you feed the baby 8-12 times daily. This helps the baby’s system to eliminate the bilirubin.
In case of severe jaundice, other treatments may be necessary. These include:
These include phototherapy; an effective treatment method using light to break down the bilirubin in the baby’s body. The baby is placed under blue spectrum light while only wearing diapers and protective goggles with a fiber-optic blanket underneath.
Some types of jaundice are related to differences in the blood groups between the mother and her baby. The baby carries some antibodies from her mother which cause breakdown of the baby’s blood cells. In such a case, the baby may be given an intravenous immunoglobulin transfusion of a blood protein to reduce the level of the antibodies. This can help decrease the jaundice and reduce need for exchange blood transfusion.
In case your methods to prevent jaundice in newborns did not work and very severe jaundice develops, an exchange transfusion may be carried out. In this procedure, the baby is transfused with a small amount of blood to replace his damaged blood with healthy blood. This procedure decreases the baby’s bilirubin levels and raises his red blood cell count.