Soon after your baby is born, he or she might develop yellow skin or yellow eyes, more popularly known as a condition called jaundice. For most cases, jaundice is normal and typically clears itself on its own. But what happens if it doesn’t go away and has become prolonged jaundice in newborns?
Prolonged Jaundice in Newborn
When a baby’s skin appears yellow, it is referred to as jaundice. The yellowing of their eyes can also be observed in the whites.
6 out of 10 kids born after 37 weeks of pregnancy (full-term) and 8 out of 10 babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have jaundice (premature).
Jaundice normally goes away without therapy within 10 to 14 days, but in premature babies, it might take up to 3 weeks.
Risk factors in newborn
Jaundice affects about 60 per cent of all newborns. Some babies are more likely than others to experience severe jaundice and elevated bilirubin levels. Babies with any of the following risk factors should be closely monitored and treated for jaundice as soon as possible:
- Preterm babies
- Newborns with darker skin
- Of East Asian or Mediterranean descent
- Blood type
- Feeding difficulties
When the yellowness of your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes does not decrease after 2 weeks in a full-term baby and 3 weeks in a premature infant, it’s called prolonged jaundice.
Jaundice that lasts for a long time is normally harmless, but it can be an indication of serious liver disease.
Kernicterus is a disorder that occurs when severe jaundice is left untreated for an extended period of time.
Kernicterus is a type of brain injury caused by excessive bilirubin levels in a baby’s blood. It can lead to hearing loss and athetoid cerebral palsy. Kernicterus can potentially cause eyesight and dental difficulties, as well as intellectual deficiencies. Kernicterus can be avoided if jaundice is detected and treated early.
Symptoms of Prolonged Jaundice in Newborn
Jaundice can manifest in the following signs and symptoms:
- The skin seems somewhat yellow as if it has been sun-tanned. Yellowing is more noticeable on the soles of their feet, hands, and/or inside their mouth in babies with a dark complexion.
- The whites of the eyes have a golden tint to them.
The majority of babies with jaundice have no further symptoms, although some may notice that:
- they have urine that is dark
- instead of yellow or green stools (poo), have pale stools.
- are often drowsy
- are not eating or feeding well.
Prolonged Jaundice Causes
When a baby is born, his or her liver is unable to operate quickly enough, resulting in jaundice. The liver removes bilirubin from the bloodstream as one of its activities.
Bilirubin is a yellow substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells that are no longer needed. Because newborn babies have more red blood cells and these cells don’t persist as long as older children, they produce more bilirubin, which their liver can’t absorb. This means that bilirubin levels in their blood rise, resulting in jaundice.
Long-term jaundice can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- A condition in which red blood cells degrade more quickly than they should. This is usually discovered during pregnancy or shortly after birth.
- Infection or another ailment.
- A thyroid gland problem in your child
- A liver condition (Uncommon)
Prolonged Jaundice in Breastfed Infants
Breastfed newborns are more likely to be jaundiced than bottle-fed babies. Jaundice will resolve with time if this is the case, and the baby should continue to be breastfed.
Prolonged Jaundice in Newborn Diagnosis
In a well-lit environment, your midwife or general practitioner can detect persistent jaundice by looking at your baby’s skin and eyes. They’ll then direct your infant to the doctors to figure out what’s causing extended jaundice. At the hospital, things will go like this:
- You will be questioned about your pregnancy, the delivery of your child, and how your child has been feeding.
- Your infant will be measured and weighed.
- The colour of your baby’s faeces and urine will be asked.
- If any of your baby’s relatives have experienced jaundice, you will be asked.
- A blood test will be performed on your baby to rule out any infections, thyroid issues, or liver issues. A needle will be inserted into the back of your baby’s hand, and a small amount of blood will be drawn from them. You can comfort your kid by feeding them during this time.
- An infection test will be performed on a sample of your baby’s urine.
Treatment for Prolonged Jaundice in Newborns
As a baby’s liver matures, mild jaundice normally goes away on its own. Babies will be able to move bilirubin through their bodies if they are fed often (8 to 12 times per day).
Other therapies may be required if the jaundice is severe. Phototherapy is a common and extremely effective treatment that employs light to help your baby’s body break down bilirubin.
Your infant will be placed on a special bed beneath a blue spectrum light while just wearing a diaper and special protective eyewear during phototherapy. You can also use a fibre-optic blanket to keep your infant warm.
An exchange transfusion, in which a baby receives modest amounts of blood from a donor or a blood bank, may be required in extreme instances.
This replaces the damaged red blood cells in the baby’s blood with healthy red blood cells. This boosts the baby’s red blood cell count while also lowering bilirubin levels.
Can We Prevent Jaundice in Newborn
Photo by Laura Garcia from Pexels
There’s no way to stop newborns from getting jaundiced.
Your baby’s blood type will be tested after birth to rule out blood type incompatibility, which can cause neonatal jaundice. If your baby does have jaundice, there are some things you can do to keep it from getting worse:
- Ensure that your newborn is receiving adequate nourishment from your breast milk. Feeding your infant 8 to 12 times a day for the first few days keeps them hydrated, allowing bilirubin to flow through their system more quickly.
- Give your infant 1 to 2 ounces of formula every 2 to 3 hours for the first week if you are not nursing. Preterm or smaller babies, as well as babies who are already receiving breast milk, may require less formula. If you’re concerned that your baby is consuming too little or too much formula, or if they don’t wake up to feed at least 8 times per 24 hours, consult your doctor.
- During the first five days of your baby’s life, keep an eye out for signs of jaundice, such as yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Prolonged Jaundice: When to Bring Baby to the Doctor
Although most episodes of jaundice are harmless, it can occasionally signal an underlying medical issue. Severe jaundice also raises the chance of bilirubin entering the brain, which can result in lasting damage.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor:
- Jaundice progresses or intensifies.
- A fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) develops in your infant.
- The colour of your baby’s skin darkens.
- Your infant is not eating well, appears listless or lethargic, and cries loudly.
This article was written by Margaux Dolores and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
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