Infants health

What is Neonatal Jaundice Causes and treatments?

What is Neonatal Jaundice Causes and treatments?
Published : February 14 , 2017
Latest Update : September 06 , 2021
Dr. Hamida Shahin Dr. Hamida Shahin
Dr. Hamidah Shaheen is a pediatric consultant with over 30 years of experience in Pediatrics and Neonatology.  Qualifications: Fellow of the Royal College of Pediatrics-Edinburgh (FRCP-UK), Member of the Royal... more

Many new parents worry about every single detail that their newborn is going through, and one of these details is the color of the baby’s skin, is it too yellowish? What is normal and what is not? Let’s start with the basics:

What is Neonatal Jaundice?

Yellowish discoloration of skin and eyes during the first few weeks of life, it’s a very common condition, and frequently seen in many babies.  

Causes and treatments:

There are many causes for Neonatal Jaundice, most of them are not serious and doesn’t need any intervention, others are not common and can be serious and needs medical intervention. Below are some causes and their treatments:

  • Physiologic Jaundice

This is the most common cause of neonatal Jaundice, it usually appears between 2-4 days after birth and disappears within 2-3 weeks, the cause is usually due to break down of extra red blood cells that those babies have before they are born, the result of break down are dealt with by the liver, which sometimes cannot cope with it and results in Jaundice. Treatment is usually not needed, only hydration by proper monitoring of bilirubin level under the supervision of the treating doctor. In some cases, if the baby has higher bilirubin levels, he might need to be treated by "Phototherapy", which is a special collection of ultraviolet rays that helps to lower the bilirubin to non-toxic levels.


  • Breastfeeding Jaundice

Sometimes babies who are exclusively breast fed may have higher bilirubin levels due to inadequate fluid levels in the first few days, this type of Jaundice is usually safe and rarely need any intervention.


  • Jaundice Caused by Infections

Some types of infections that happen during pregnancy may cause Jaundice in babies after they are born. The treatment depends on the severity and cause. Other infections that some babies get after birth can cause Jaundice in which this type of Jaundice might be a sign for “Sepsis”, in this case you need to check with your doctor.

  There are causes of Jaundice other than what was mentioned above, but they are rare. Here some examples:

  • Extravasation of blood:

    This means accumulation of blood in places outside of the blood vessels, the most common one is “Cephalhematoma”, where the blood accumulates in the baby’s skull layers, this blood is dealt with by the body and becomes hemolyzed. Blood products will result in an increase of bilirubin levels, in some cases the baby may need to be treated by “Phototherapy”.
  • Abnormal increase in red blood cells breakdown, which is due to one of two reasons:

    • Enzyme deficiency;

      the most commonly seen is (G6PD) deficiency which is known as “Favism”.
    • Differences between blood group between baby and his mother.

       in which can be either due to RH factor where the mother is RH –VE, and the baby is RH+VE. The antibodies from the mother will cause hemolysis of the baby’s blood, also if the mother is from O blood group and the baby is an A or B group the same thing may occur, these conditions should be looked at carefully. Some cases may need phototherapy, while other cases may need exchange transfusion of the baby’s blood. The treating doctor can decide the right treatment for such cases. In some cases, exchange transfusion is done while the baby is still inside his mother’s uterus.

  There are some points that parents should remember about dealing with Jaundice:

  • Sugar solutions should never be given.

    They will increase the bilirubin level by causing dehydration.
  • Try not to dress the baby in yellow the first few days.

    Since it will make it hard to distinguish the yellowish color and can delay proper management.
  • No need to Use Garlic necklaces.

    It’s a misconception, it doesn’t help treat neonatal Jaundice.
  • Stopping breast milk is not recommended at all, only in rare exceptions.

  • Always consult your doctor even if you think that Jaundice is mild.



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