Newborn Jaundice

Newborn Jaundice
By Michael Schoenwetter, MD

Newborn Care - JaundiceIn our pediatric practice we come across many cases of newborn jaundice. Jaundice, the yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin, is caused by a chemical called bilirubin. Newborn jaundice is very common. A large percentage of the newborns that I see do develop jaundice.

Bilirubin is formed from the breakdown of red blood cells.The liver is responsible for processing the bilirubin. Newborns livers are not fully functioning. Jaundice occurs when the newborn’s immature liver inefficiently processes the bilirubin.

Most newborn jaundice will go away without intervention. There are some factors, however, that can make jaundice worse and would alert your pediatrician to monitor your newborn closely.

We are not only concerned with the absolute level of jaundice, but how fast the levels are rising, as high levels of jaundice can cause some problems. Based on multiple factors your doctor will decide if any intervention is needed. The DVD will explain these factors and go over newborn jaundice in an easy to understand way so as to relieve your stress regarding this common newborn issue. Our website will also offer other newborn resources that will cover such topics as newborn jaundice.

About the newborn Care DVD
The newborn care dvd discusses intervention for newborn jaundice. One of the treatment modalities of newborn jaundice is phototherapy. Phototherapy is the process of using specific types of light to change bilirubin-the chemical that causes jaundice-into substances that the newborn can excrete easily. For many years phototherapy was provided by spotlights suspended at a distance from the baby. The light would shine directly on the baby and the baby’s eyes would need protection with eye patches.

The newer mechanism of providing phototherapy for newborn jaundice is the biliblanket. The biliblanket is a blanket that can be wrapped around the baby or may be a pad which the baby can lie on. It uses a form of light that is found in sunlight, but the harmful ultraviolet light has been filtered out. The lighted blanket is placed directly against your newborn’s skin and absorption of the light leads to the excretion of the bilirubin. This convenient and safe form of treatment can be used while you’re your newborn is clothed, held or even nursed. Normally, newborns under phototherapy will have frequent, loose bowel movements as this is the way that the bilirubin is removed from the baby.

The length of time the biliblanket is needed is determined by your doctor based on the severity of the newborn’s jaundice. Find out more about newborn jaundice, when to call your pediatrician and newborn jaundice treatments on the video.

Newborn Jaundice and Autism
Jaundice in the newborn period puts children at greater risk for autism, according to a study from Denmark. The researchers looked at over 700,000 full term newborn babies born between 1994-2004. They found that newborns that were jaundiced had higher rates of developing autistic spectrum disorders later in life. The risk was greater in newborns born to mothers who had previous children and to newborns born between October and March.

The data is interesting, but how newborn jaundice and autism relate is a mystery. The study does not support a cause and effect relationship—it does not state that newborn jaundice causes autism, just that it might be related. It does seem, however, that newborn jaundice might be another piece of the confusing puzzle of how autism develops, and hopefully this puzzle can be figured out over the next few years.