Jaundice in Newborns: Reasons, Symptoms, and Treatment

jaundice in newborns. a newborn at the hospital

Jaundice in newborns is a fairly common condition in infants, which usually occurs at the 3rd–4th day of life. The icteric staining of the skin can scare a young mom, because it is considered that this is a sure sign of liver damage. But in newborns this is not the case. In most cases jaundice is completely normal and is not dangerous to health.

Types of Jaundice in Newborns

There are two main types of jaundice:

  • physiological (occurs in almost 80% of babies in the first days of life);
  • pathological (when the level of bilirubin in the blood exceeds the norm. Bilirubin is a poison that can badly affect the organs and systems of the human body).

Physiological (transient or temporary) jaundice is normally a rapidly passing state. Jaundice staining of the skin occurs in most healthy full-term newborns at the 3rd-4th days of life.

Jaundice in newborns occurs because the red blood cells of the fetus contain a special fetal hemoglobin, which begins to actively deteriorate after the birth of a baby. This leads to the release of large amounts of bilirubin – hence the coloring of the skin. In addition, infants have a protein deficiency that transports that same bilirubin across the membranes of the liver cells for further utilization, and the immature liver enzymes, in turn, do not have time to “process” such an amount of this “substrate.”

jaundice in newborns.

As a result of all these physiological aspects, a large amount of bilirubin circulates in the blood of a newborn, which paints the skin and sometimes the mucous membranes of the baby in a yellowish color.

Unlike pathological jaundice, in a transient state, there is no enlargement of the liver and spleen, erythrocyte decay, or a change in the color of feces and urine. As a rule, physiological jaundice in newborns passes on its own in 1-2 weeks and does not cause the baby any harm or anxiety.

Pathological jaundice occurs earlier or later than the physiological jaundice and lasts more than two weeks. It is more serious and requires treatment in the hospital.

Possible Reasons

The main causes of jaundice in newborns are the following:

  • incompatibility of the blood groups of the child and the mother;
  • the presence of infectious diseases in the body that require urgent treatment;
  • premature delivery;
  • maternal diabetes;
  • minor hemorrhages in a child;
  • swallowed blood (for example, when breastfeeding a child may swallow the blood leaking from the nipple);
  • the introduction of drugs into the mother’s blood both during and after labor (oxytocin, ampicillin, cefazolin).

jaundice in newborns. a doctor holding the baby

Parents should start worrying if jaundice in a child continues for three weeks. The norm is the decline of yellowness of the skin within 7-9 days – starting from the tips of the toes and ending with the whites of the eyes.

Symptoms of Jaundice in Newborns

The main symptoms of jaundice in a newborn baby are the following:

  • characteristic yellowness of the skin;
  • staining of the whites of the eyes in yellow;
  • bleached defecation;
  • urine of the bright yellow color;
  • rejection of the breast;
  • rapid weight loss;
  • anemia;
  • fever;
  • chills.

Keep in mind that jaundice itself is a symptom, and therefore requires a detailed examination.


Pay attention to the following: treatment of jaundice should be prescribed only by a professional and should be carried out only under the doctor’s supervision! Also, keep in mind that all types of pathological jaundice are treated only in the hospital!

With physiological jaundice, usually no specific treatment is required. To help the child cope with the removal of bilirubin, you need to:

  • Apply the baby to the breast as often as possible;
  • Refuse artificial formulas;
  • Try to stay more in the fresh air;
  • Provide the baby with air and sun baths;
  • A nursing mother should follow a strict diet, eliminating foods that adversely affect the gastrointestinal tract.

jaundice in newborns. phototherapy

Phototherapy also has a positive physiotherapy effect on jaundice in newborns. The essence of the method in the therapeutic effects of ultraviolet rays, which convert bilirubin in the child’s blood into a safe isomer, which is easily excreted in the urine and feces. In this case, a special lamp is used, under which the baby is laying for several days from 2 to 96 hours with interruptions for feeding. The procedure must be prescribed by a doctor and carried out under the supervision of specialists. Phototherapy treatment is not prescribed for severe conditions and high levels of bilirubin.

Drug therapy is also conducted in a hospital and prescribed by a doctor. Solutions of potassium, magnesium and glucose can be administered intravenously to the child. Sorbents and, in severe conditions, blood transfusions are prescribed.

Consequences of Jaundice in Newborns

The consequences depend on the severity of jaundice course and the timeliness of treatment. So, physiological jaundice usually has no consequences. But if the pathological jaundice has started, delay with treatment can lead to the extremely serious consequences:

  • lethargy;
  • mental underdevelopment;
  • brain damage;
  • mental retardation;
  • partial or complete immobility;
  • cerebral palsy;
  • partial blindness and deafness (in very severe cases);
  • encephalopathy.

In particularly severe cases, there is swelling of the brain, which can lead to the death of the child.

That is why it is important to consult a doctor and begin treatment in time!

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