The word “jaundice” refers to yellowish discoloration of the sclera and/or the skin. A baby’s body attempts to break down extra blood cells after birth. During this process, red blood cells are broken down and a substance known as bilirubin is released. This bilirubin gives the yellow color. For the purpose of this post, we would classify jaundice in the newborn into:

  • Physiologic/normal
  • Pathologic/abnormal

In normal babies, jaundice sometimes starts on the 2nd day after delivery, and would usually clear by 2 weeks. This is the normal/physiologic jaundice.

Mothers may usually be kept at the hospital for at least 24 hours following vaginal delivery, before discharge, in order to monitor the baby and look out for signs of jaundice that would usually occur, in physiologic cases, after 24 hours.

The baby’s health is typically not affected by physiologic jaundice, especially if the rate of breakdown of red cells is not rapid.

Pathologic jaundice, on the other hand, occurs when the bilirubin level in the blood becomes very high. This may be the case:

  • In a baby with a blood disease
  • In the presence of infection(neonatal sepsis)
  • If the baby has a low birth weight or preterm
  • If the baby is not sucking well
  • If the baby is not passing stool

In a case of pathologic jaundice, the extra bilirubin may pass into the baby’s brain, causing damage.

Therefore, it is important to look out for some danger signs of jaundice in the newborn.

  • If the jaundice starts during the first 24hours after birth
  • If it affects the hands and the legs by the 2nd day after birth
  • If it affects the hands and feet by the 3rd day or afterwards
  • If it lasts longer than 2 weeks.

If any of the above is noticed, please visit the nearest health facility asap.

If you notice jaundice at all in your newborn, do not wait till it gets serious. See your doctor.

Got questions? Consult DoctorKK right here.

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