What’s Jaundice and how do you treat it?

Jaundice - what is it and how to treat it

What’s Jaundice and how do you treat it? That’s exactly what I’ll be running through in this blog.

Hi, if this is your first time visiting the bitbaby pregnancy blog, I’m Rachael, a midwife of over 20 years and the founder of bitbaby.

Hopefully, you’ll find everything you need to know about jaundice in this blog, and if your baby has it, how it will be treated.

What’s jaundice?

Jaundice in babies will normally make their skin turn yellow as well as the whites of their eyes. It’s due to an excess of bilirubin in your baby’s blood which is a yellow substance produced when red blood cells break down.

A newborn’s liver isn’t yet developed enough to break down the bilirubin. But after two weeks, their liver processing improves and jaundice usually goes away on its own.

It will be checked by a Midwife or Paediatrician (baby doctor), but jaundice is usually harmless.

How many babies get jaundice?

Surprisingly, it’s more common than you think. Babies have a large amount of red blood cells that are broken down and frequently replaced.

It’s estimated that 60% of newborns will develop jaundice, and up to 80% of babies born prematurely will develop jaundice.

It’s even thought that breastfeeding could increase the likelihood of developing jaundice but the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks.

How to treat jaundice

Newborn jaundice doesn’t often require intervention or treatment as it’ll likely go away on its own after approximately two weeks.

However, in rare cases where the amount of bilirubin in the blood is high, your doctor or midwife will take action.

This is because a high level of bilirubin can cause some complications that affect the brain, known as kernicterus. Treatment options for jaundice include:

phototherapy – a particular wavelength of light is used on the skin that alters the bilirubin, making it easier for the liver to break it down. So your baby might require the use of a biliblanket worn in their cot or more intensive treatment via an incubator. We always aim to keep your baby with you at your bedside throughout if it’s possible.

If you are at home, it is recommended that plenty of sunlight/daylight helps breakdown bilirubin. So your midwife might suggest you place your baby’s moses basket near a closed window or in a bright room making sure the baby isn’t in a draft.

Any other treatment required will be discussed with you in the first instance.

    When should I be worried about jaundice?

    If your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes are yellow, speak with your Midwife. Also, if your baby develops jaundice within 24 hours of giving birth, this could be a sign of an incompatibility of blood with the mother.

    This is more common in women with type O or RH-negative blood types. In your prenatal visits, your midwife will check your blood type to see if you’re at a higher risk for this.

    If you are, it’s likely that your baby’s blood type will be checked at birth and a Coombs test will be carried out to see if an incompatibility has affected your baby’s blood cells.

      About bitbaby

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