Newborn Jaundice: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

The physical signs of jaundice can be observed on the baby's skin. The most common symptom is yellowing of the white part of the eye called the sclera.


Newborn Jaundice: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Red blood cells are called hemoglobin. The body breaks down and creates new ones every four months. In the process of destruction, a yellow-colored substance emerges. This substance is called bilirubin. Jaundice occurs when the liver cannot remove bilirubin from the body. Babies' organs cannot perform their functions properly because they are not fully developed.

Causes of Newborn Jaundice

While the babies are in the womb, the mother’s body does the cells’ destruction and repair process. After babies are born, the process of adapting their bodies to the outside world begins. Babies start the adaptation process in the first few days after birth. It is expected that jaundice will pass in two weeks. The liver, which will perform its duty for the first time, needs 3-4 days to reach sufficient maturity. Therefore, jaundice is seen in babies whose liver is not fully developed. Jaundice also occurs when the baby does not get enough breast milk. When the milk comes slower than usual, the baby cannot be fed with breast milk and cannot acquire the substances in the milk. 

Other factors can be listed as follows;

  • The presence of an infection called sepsis in the blood of the newborn,
  • Incompatibility of the newborn's blood with the mother,
  • Problems in the baby's digestive system
  • Glucose-6 Phosphate Dehydrogenosis (G6PD) deficiency,
  • Genetic factors,
  • Maternal age, abnormal and difficult birth are also among the causes of jaundice.

Jaundice Symptoms in Babies

The physical signs of jaundice can be observed on the baby's skin. The most common symptom is yellowing of the white part of the eye called the sclera. A few days after birth, in a well-lit environment or daylight, the presence of jaundice can be examined by applying very little pressure to the baby's nose and forehead. If the skin turns yellow in the area where the pressure is used, there is jaundice. In addition, the bilirubin level according to the parts of the body also gives information about the level of jaundice. Babies are checked for jaundice right after birth. However, symptoms may occur after discharge. These symptoms are:

  • If the baby is gradually turning a dark color,
  • If there is a high fever,
  • If there is drowsiness and weakness, it should be taken to the doctor.
  • If the jaundice is not caused by breast milk and is caused by the liver, the baby's poop is very colorless because the liver cannot fully perform its function.

Diagnosing Jaundice in Babies

Newborn babies are checked according to the follow-up procedure. If there is jaundice, appropriate treatment is applied. It may also occur after discharge. In this case, parents need to be careful and observe. If jaundice in babies is not noticed and it becomes severe, it can cause serious health problems. In this case, it brings to mind the question of what happens if jaundice progresses in babies. In such a case, high bilirubin moves towards the brain, causing damage to the brain and negativities in the auditory nerves. In cases of yellowing, a blood test is performed, and a diagnosis is made by looking at the bilirubin level in the test results.

Jaundice Treatment in Babies

There are three different methods for the treatment of jaundice in babies. First of all, if the baby has mild jaundice, it is expected to heal spontaneously by being kept under the supervision of doctors. Treatment methods are as follows;

Blood Exchange: This method is applied if the baby's bilirubin level is too high.

Medication: Some drugs are used to lower the bilirubin level.

Light therapy: The baby is placed under a special light. Thanks to the light, the excess bilirubin in the body is excreted.