Is it worrisome for the newborn to have jaundice?
More than 50 percent of healthy, absolutely normal babies get yellowed skin the first few days after birth. If this happens to your baby, you do not have to panic, but you need to talk to your pediatrician.
As the peak of jaundice usually occurs between the second and third day, the condition is usually diagnosed and treated in the motherhood itself.
If the baby is already at home, contact the doctor or bring the child back to the hospital for an examination if the yellow is pronounced, especially if it is in the belly or legs.
In the case of a baby born after 37 weeks of pregnancy, within a week his cheeks should be rosy again. In the case of premature infants, it may take a little longer.
What causes jaundice?
Jaundice appears in the healthy baby when the blood gets over a substance called bilirubin, which is produced during the body’s processing of red blood cells that it will not need anymore.
Newborns tend to have higher bilirubin levels because they have extra red blood cells in the body, and their liver still can not metabolize excess bilirubin.
As bilirubin levels rise, the yellow goes down: it starts in the head, goes to the neck, then reaches the chest, and in severe cases, it reaches the toes. This type of neonatal jaundice is rarely harmful to healthy babies born at term.
In rare cases, newborns with jaundice may suffer neurological damage, but this only occurs when bilirubin levels become extremely high.
Is jaundice very common in newborns?
The prevalence of jaundice depends greatly on the racial origin of the child. Asian babies, for example, are more likely to have jaundice compared to white and black newborns.
From the level of 5 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter of blood) bilirubin, jaundice becomes visible. In term babies, that is, after 39 weeks of gestation, bilirubin peak occurs on the second or third day of life.
Between 50 and 65 percent of infants have visible jaundice (above 5 mg / dL). In preterm infants, this number rises to 80 percent, and peak bilirubin occurs between the fifth and seventh day postpartum.
How is jaundice treated?
If your baby has yellowed skin, your pediatrician will do a blood test to measure the concentration of bilirubin and determine if treatment is needed. Determination of treatment will depend on the day bilirubin was measured, the weight with which the baby was born and the level detected.
For full-term newborns weighing more than 2.5 kg, Brazilian physicians usually report treatment from 12 or 13 mg/dl of bilirubin on the second or third day, but the calculation is done on a case-by-case basis and involves some other factors.
The treatment is done with phototherapy – the baby is placed under fluorescent lights that help to metabolize bilirubin so that it is excreted by the liver. The child is placed in a kind of light crib, without clothing, with the eyes covered by a protective mask.
When jaundice is very mild, the doctor can only indicate a sunbath of about 15 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon, before 10 am and after 4 pm.
Less frequently, jaundice is caused by blood incompatibility between mother and child (as in the case of a Rh-negative mother and Rh-positive child, and sometimes when a mother is O and child A or B). Jaundice due to blood incompatibility depends on how much the mother has been sensitized to produce antibodies against the child’s red blood cells.
There is still jaundice from some other associated disease, and hyperbilirubinemia reaches dangerous levels – an indication of this is when jaundice arises on the first day. Doctors will evaluate the baby to find out what caused jaundice.
How can I tell if my child has jaundice?
If you are already home with your baby and you are worried, take the following test: in a well-lit environment (preferably in daylight or white light), lightly apply pressure to the child’s chest.
If your skin becomes yellow when you stop pressure, talk to a doctor or take the baby to the maternity unit for a more detailed examination (no need to panic). For darker-skinned children, notice if the eyes or gums are yellow.
It is important to remember that jaundice passes quickly, most of the time alone, and leaves no type of sequela, except in very serious cases. If you have any questions, talk to the doctor or call the hospital where you gave birth.