top of page

Jaundice in the Newborn

Jaundice in newborns can be terrifying for parents, especially when you are not expecting it, or understand what it is. Whether your baby is full term or premature, your baby may get jaundice. Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and eyes, and can be very common amongst newborns. However, there are some cases where jaundice may be very dangerous to your newborn.

Types of jaundice

Physiological Jaundice

When you are pregnant your baby does not use his/her lungs, their circulation is fed via the placenta. The way your baby receives oxygen is via haemoglobin in the blood. Once your baby is born, they take a breath and their new circulation starts. At this point the baby will have too much haemoglobin in their circulatory system and will start to break it down. The waste product of this transition is bilirubin, which is what will make your baby look yellow. This usually occurs after 2-3 days and is a normal process. Your baby will clear the jaundice usually by herself. You can help clear the jaundice by feeding frequently, and putting the baby in indirect sunlight.

Pathological Jaundice

Pathological jaundice usually appears within the first 24 hours of your babies life. You may notice the jaundice spreading across the body and the whites of their eyes. Pathological jaundice is more serious than physiological jaundice as it may be a symptom of a more serious condition. Your baby will be referred to a paediatrician and they will do some blood work on baby to rule out any problems.

What causes pathological jaundice?

Under active thyroid Where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones.

If the babies blood group is different to the mother If the babies and mothers blood mixes at some point it can create a problem.

Antibodies will be created and start attacking the babies red blood cells.

How is jaundice diagnosed?

Your baby will be checked daily by a health professional in the first few days and they will keep an eye on your babies skin colour. If you notice that your baby is jaundice then discuss this with them. A simple heel prick blood test will be sent to the lab and will show how high the bilirubin levels are. If the levels are under a certain threshold then just feed your baby every 3-4 hours and put the baby in indirect sunlight. If the levels are over the threshold, then phototherapy may be needed. Phototherapy is the use of bright light therapy to break down the bilirubin. Your baby may only need a short time under the lights and not need it again. It is very important to feed your baby 3 hourly as the milk will also help break down the bilirubin. It can be alarming for new parents to see their new baby turning a tinge of yellow, but it is usually a very normal process. If you are concerned or if your baby is too sleepy to feed then make sure you let your health professional know.

For more informative pregnancy, birth and baby related articles, read our Maternity Mum blog.


bottom of page