What is jaundice?

Jaundice is a harmless condition in newborn babies where it causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It is usually common to happen among newborn babies and is known as neonatal jaundice. This condition usually appears about 3 days after birth and disappears by the time the baby is 2 weeks old.

What causes neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal Jaundice is caused by excessive bilirubin in the blood, which is known as hyperbilirubinemia. It’s a yellow substance produced when red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin travels in the bloodstream into the liver and the liver changes the form of bilirubin so it can pass out of the body through faeces.

Jaundice occurs when there’s too much bilirubin in the bloodstream or the liver can’t get rid of it.

What are the symptoms?

The most common and obvious symptom is the colour of the skin where it will look slightly yellow. The yellowing of the skin usually starts from the head and face, before spreading to the stomach.

For darker skin tones, it might be harder to spot the yellowing of the skin. In such cases, yellowing would be more obvious elsewhere, such as:

  • In the whites of the eyes
  • Inside the mouth
  • On the palms of the hands
  • On the soles of the feet

How to treat neonatal jaundice?

In such mild cases, no treatment is needed as the bilirubin level in the blood is low. The condition will usually get better in 10-14 days and won’t cause any harm to the body. The baby can be breastfed or bottle-fed regularly, every few hours.

However, treatment will be needed if the baby has high levels of bilirubin in the blood. The baby may need to be admitted into the hospital and treated with phototherapy or an exchange transfusion. These treatments are recommended to reduce the risk of kernicterus, a serious complication of neonatal jaundice, which can cause brain damage.

If your baby developed neonatal jaundice in the first few days or weeks after being born, kindly consult with your midwife or doctor for observation and treatment, if necessary.

Find out how Regency’s medical experts can support your health with a wide range of sub-specialties in our Women & Children Centre of Excellence.

Have question?
Get in touch with Regency