Jaundice in newborns has become very common nowadays. Almost 80 to 90 percent of newborns get jaundice after they are born. Some get it very light and some may get severe jaundice. Jaundice in babies is nothing but a yellow color of the skin and eyes. There will not be any other symptoms like headaches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, etc like adults do when they get jaundice. So you shouldn’t panic if your newborn has mild jaundice. However, severe jaundice can impact your baby’s brain if it is not treated correctly on time. Now, how will you know if your baby has mild or severe jaundice?
Usually, newborns get jaundice on the second or third day after their birth. First, it comes very mildly so that you can even see it on your baby’s skin. It slowly increases or decreases with time. So you always have to keep an eye on your baby and check if the jaundice is becoming severe or very mild. Nowadays, every hospital will do a jaundice checkup of your newborn soon after birth. If they notice severe jaundice on the second day of birth, they will advise you to admit your baby to NICU, where he will be kept under a blue light to cure jaundice for 2 to 3 days or till he is completely cured. Or they will tell you to visit the hospital again after 5 days to check if the jaundice is very mild on the second r third day after birth. So, If you had a natural delivery, you will be discharged the next day after delivery. If you had a c-section, you will be discharged after 3 to 4 days after delivery. So after discharge, you have to come again to the hospital for a jaundice checkup of your newborn.
Cause of Jaundice in Newborns:-
jaundice occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the baby’s blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that comes from the breakdown of red blood cells(RBCs). It is present in the Liver. The liver removes bilirubin and passes it out through the stool. In some babies, bilirubin builds up faster than the liver would break it down. At this time jaundice occurs. The baby’s skin looks yellow when you press the skin. Since newborns have more or extra red blood cells in their body that break down slowly once they are born, they get jaundice because more bilirubin is produced by the liver to break down all these blood cells.
After childbirth, through the C-section or vaginal birth, the baby has to be kept under observation for one hour or two, to check his overall health normal heartbeat levels, breathing problems, jaundice, or any other problems. If they are normal and healthy they can go back home or else they will be kept under observation till they become normal.
Healthy newborns get physiological or normal jaundice. This occurs because the newborn baby has more red blood cells(RBCs) when they are in the mother’s womb. After coming out these extra RBCs die slowly and bilirubin is formed when they break down. This type of jaundice is seen in babies after 2 to 3 days and returns on its own when the baby is 2 weeks old.
Premature babies and babies who have different blood types from their mothers can also get jaundice after 2 days of their birth. Because premature babies are very weak and their livers don’t have the required strength to produce bilirubin or break down the cells. And if your blood group is different from your baby, then your body will make antibodies that attack your baby’s red blood cells.
Symptoms of Jaundice in Newborns:-
- Yellow patches on the skin of the baby.
- The yellow color of eyes.
- Dark yellow-colored urine.
- Feeling sick (if severe).
- Poor feeding (if severe).
- Very Sleepy (if severe).
- Fussy (if severe).
If your baby is dark brown or black, it might be difficult to see the yellow coloring of the skin. You can check their palms and soles to see the yellow shade of the skin. It is very easily visible in babies with fair skin color. You can also check at home if your baby has jaundice or not by just slightly pressing their skin with your finger and lifting it. After lifting your finger, if the skin color of the pressed area appears yellow, it is jaundiced. If it is normally white, then there is no need to worry. Mild jaundice starts from the forehead, eyes, face, and chest and if it gets severe, it continues to the stomach, thighs, and legs.
Mild jaundice in newborns will go away on its own when your baby turns 2 weeks old. Very little treatment is needed for this. Continuously breastfeeding and keeping your baby under natural sunlight for 10 minutes will help a lot. You can treat it at home itself very easily. If it becomes severe, then your baby should be admitted to the hospital. Because in hospitals, doctors use phototherapy for jaundice treatment. If the phototherapy does not work, then there is another procedure called blood transfusion. In which the baby’s blood is replaced by a donor’s blood to quickly lower the bilirubin levels. This happens in rare cases. If the baby is treated under phototherapy for 3 to 5 days, his bilirubin levels will come down but it doesn’t cure completely. If the jaundice is severe, it is going to take 20 to 30 days more to get completely cured at home. No medicine is given for jaundice to babies. You have to check on your baby’s skin and eyes on a daily basis. If you see any symptoms like fever, less appetite, not drinking milk, not passing urine frequently, having trouble breathing, or if the yellow coloring of the skin becomes severe, you have to rush to the hospital.
In my case, after my C-Section delivery, my baby was also taken to the observation room and checked. He was overall healthy so the doctor told us that we can go back home. But since I have to stay in the hospital for at least five days due to my operation we took a room in the hospital and stayed there. The first day the pediatrician came to check on my baby, he told me that there is very light jaundice that can be seen in his eyes and told us that it’s better if we keep him under Light Therapy(phototherapy) treatment. At first, my parents thought it will go away on its own because many newborn babies get jaundice when they are born and it goes away automatically after some time. The next day also my baby was fine, but his eyes were a bit yellow, the doctor told us to keep him under treatment to cure faster and I also have to stay there for more than 3 days with the baby for breastfeeding. We didn’t give that much importance to the doctor again and went back home after 5 days.
Now his jaundice increased so much that his face, chest, hands, and legs were all yellow and we got tensed and called the doctor, he told us to come to the hospital. We went and a blood test was taken of the baby to check bilirubin levels and the report said it is increasing every day. The doctor told that phototherapy has to be done immediately before it is too late. in this therapy, the baby is placed under a special lamp that emits blue-green light. This light changes the structure and shape of the bilirubin molecules and they are excreted out through urine or stool. Babies have to wear only diapers and cloth to cover their eyes.
I remember that was a very difficult moment for me because he was separated in a room and I can just see him through the door. I just went one or two times inside to breastfeed him and missed his smooth skin touching me. It’s tough for a mother who just gave birth to a beautiful baby and suddenly she is not able to hold her tight the whole day.
As I was very weak due to C-section, my parents told me to go home and take a rest and they will be in the hospital to take care of the baby. I didn’t want to go but my parents forced me as staying there can affect my health again. So I went back home crying. That one night, when I didn’t have my baby beside me, was like torture to me. I cried the whole night and was missing him so much. I was so tense as I don’t know how he is now if he curing or not and what will happen etc. The next day I went back to the hospital to see my little angel and breastfed him and felt a little happy. After 3 days I was very happy that my baby is coming back home. My parents bought the baby home and I was in tears after seeing him.
His jaundice was all gone but still, there was a little bit in his eyes. He looked at me seriously as if I have left him for life. The doctor gave drops to cure his jaundice and told him to keep him in the sunlight for 10 min twice daily. We followed the same every day for at least 40 days. We used to keep him under the yellow bulb also for 2 to 3 hours twice a day for one week.
Due to phototherapy, his body color turned completely black and he was no longer fair. But for a mother, however, the baby is, he is always like an angel to her. I felt the same, color does not matter, what matters is his health and how active he is. I gave him drops and took good care of him and my family helped me with everything as I was not able to do some major things due to my C-section incision like bathing the baby, massaging him, etc. After 40 days he cured completely and started getting his color back.
During my second pregnancy, I was very careful throughout the pregnancy in terms of eating healthy and taking lots of fluids to avoid jaundice in my baby. But still, my daughter was born by c-section and got jaundiced after 2 days. But the good news was that she dint get any severe jaundice. It was very mild and the doctor told us to check regularly if it becomes severe or goes on its own when we were leaving the hospital. We came back home and I started checking my baby regularly for any symptoms of jaundice. My daughter recovered fully after one week without any treatment.
Jaundice of course can be very dangerous if it becomes severe. But it can also be curable without any medicine or admission to the hospital. You need to have a lot of patience for this.