Jaundice in newborns
Jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborn babies that causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. The medical term for jaundice in babies is neonatal jaundice.
Other symptoms of newborn jaundice can include:
The symptoms of newborn jaundice usually develop two to three days after the birth andtend toget better without treatment by the time the baby is about two weeks old.
While jaundice isn't usually a cause for concern, it's important to determine whether your baby needs treatment.
If your baby is being monitored for jaundice at home, it's also important to contact your midwife urgently iftheirsymptomsquickly get worse or they become very reluctant to feed.
Bilirubin is a yellow substance produced when red blood cells are broken down.
Jaundice is common in newborn babies because babies have a high level of red blood cells in their blood,which are broken down and replaced frequently. The liver in newborn babies is also not fully developed, so it's less effective at removing the bilirubin from the blood.
By the time a baby is about two weeks old,their liver is more effective at processing bilirubin, sojaundice often corrects itself by this age without causing any harm.
In a small number of cases, jaundice can be the sign of an underlying health condition. This is often the case if jaundice develops shortly after birth (within the first 24 hours).
It's estimated 6 out of every 10 babies develop jaundice, including 8 out of 10 babies born prematurely (babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy).
However,only around 1 in 20 babies has a blood bilirubin level high enough to need treatment.
For reasons that are unclear, breastfeeding a baby increases the risk of them developing jaundice, which can often persist for a month or longer.In most cases,thebenefits of breastfeeding far outweigh any risks associated with jaundice.
Most cases of jaundice in babies don't need treatment as the symptoms normally pass within 10 to 14 days, although symptoms can last longerin a minority of cases.
Treatment is usually only recommended if tests showa baby has very high levels of bilirubin in their blood because there's a small risk the bilirubin could pass into the brain and cause brain damage.
There aretwo main treatments that can be carried out in hospitalto quickly reduce your baby's bilirubin levels. These are:
Most babies respond well to treatment and can leave hospital after a few days.
This is known as kernicterus.
Kernicterusis very rare in the UK, affecting less than 1 in every 100,000 babies born. There wereeight hospital admissions for kernicterus in Englandin 2013-14.
Jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborn babies that causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Symptoms of jaundice usually appear about three days after birth and disappear by the time the baby is two weeks old.
Jaundice is caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. This is known as hyperbilirubinaemia.
Your baby will be checked for jaundice within 72 hours of being born, but you should keep an eye out for signs of the condition after you return home.
You should see your GP or midwife if your baby develops jaundice. They'll be able to assess whether treatment is needed.
Kernicterus is a rare but serious complication of untreated jaundice in babies caused by excess bilirubin damaging the brain or central nervous system.