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Jaundice In Newborns

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Newborn jaundice is excess bilirubin in your newborn's blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance found in your newborn's red blood cells. Excess bilirubin will cause your newborn's skin and the whites of his eyes to turn yellow. Jaundice is also called hyperbilirubinemia. Jaundice may occur if your baby is bruised during birth, has a blood disorder, or has a different blood type than his mother. It may also be caused by infection, premature birth, or a lack of breast milk nutrition in your newborn.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby.

RISKS:

Too much bilirubin in your newborn's blood may lead to brain damage. The damage may cause disorders such as hearing loss and cerebral palsy. Rarely, severe jaundice may lead to breathing problems, uncontrolled seizures, and coma. Severe jaundice may be life-threatening.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your child's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask you or your child about his pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your child's current health.

Daily weight:

Your newborn will be weighed daily to make sure he is not losing weight. Weight loss may be a sign that your newborn is dehydrated.

Feeding:

Breastfeed your baby as early and as often as possible. You may use formula along with breast milk if you do not produce enough breast milk. Look for signs of thirst in your baby, such as lip smacking and restlessness. You should breastfeed 8 to 12 times daily for the first few days to boost your milk supply. Ask your caregiver for help if you have trouble breastfeeding.

Intake and output:

Caregivers may need to know how much liquid your newborn is drinking and urinating. Caregivers will weigh his diapers to see how much he is urinating. Do not throw away diapers before you ask a caregiver.

Blood tests:

Blood tests may be done to monitor your baby's bilirubin level and to look for the cause of jaundice. These tests may be needed every few hours.

Treatment:

Your baby may need any of the following treatments if the bilirubin level in his blood becomes very high:

  • Phototherapy: This uses light to turn bilirubin into a form that your newborn's body can remove. One or more lights will be placed above your baby. He will be placed on his back to absorb the most light. Your baby may also lie on a flexible light pad, or his caregiver may wrap him in the light pad. Eye covers may be used to protect his eyes from the light. Your newborn's temperature will be taken often during phototherapy to make sure he does not get too warm.

  • Exchange transfusion: Your baby's caregiver may replace a portion of your baby's blood with blood from a donor. This will be done if your baby has severe jaundice.

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin: Your newborn may receive medicine during phototherapy or exchange transfusion. He will receive the medicine if he has a blood disorder and his bilirubin continues to rise.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Jaundice In Newborns (Inpatient Care)

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