Prolonged Jaundice in Babies

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What is jaundice?

Jaundice is a yellow colouration of the skin that is sometimes also seen in the white of the eyes. Newborn babies are born with a higher than normal number of red blood cells. The body continuously makes red blood cells and breaks down old ones. As these blood cells break down the body produces a waste product called bilirubin. When bilirubin levels in the body are raised it causes jaundice. The liver removes the bilirubin from the blood, but the liver of a newborn baby can take a few days to work properly and this is what causes babies to be jaundiced.

Does being jaundiced mean my baby is unwell?
Most babies with jaundice are healthy and there is nothing to worry about. Infants that are breast fed can have a type of jaundice that is not harmful. In most cases the jaundice begins to resolve itself by 14 days of age. However, in a few babies, the presence of jaundice can indicate that your baby is unwell.

What are some of the reasons babies are jaundiced?
• Your baby may be premature.
• Your baby may have a condition in which blood cells break down more quickly than is normal for babies. This is usually recognised very soon after the baby is born, or even during pregnancy, and further treatment may be necessary.
• Your baby may have an infection.
• Your baby may have a thyroid gland that is not working properly. This is usually tested as part of a blood test carried out on all babies between 5 and 10 days old, called the Newborn Screening blood test.
• Your baby may have a problem with their liver. However, this is rare.

What happens during the clinic appointment?
You will have already been contacted and given an appointment with the time and location of the clinic. When you arrive, a doctor will come and check some details about your baby, including feeding patterns, stool and urine colour. You will be given the opportunity to ask questions, if you have any. After this, a blood test will be done from a vein in the back of your baby’s hand or foot. Many babies cry during the test but will soon settle. You can stay with your baby for the test if you would like to. A sucrose solution may be given as a soother during the blood test or you can feed your baby to comfort them.

What happens next?
One of the doctors will call you to give the results within a week and explaining the next steps. Most of the babies would be discharged at this point but some require repeat or further tests. If you do not get a call within a week, please contact Consultants secretary on Tel No: 01908996500 so they can facilitate getting the results to you.