More than half of all newborns have jaundice. It is harmless in most cases. Jaundice is an indication that the baby's liver still has some maturing to do. Most noticeably, your baby’s skin and eyeballs have a yellowish colour. Also, their urine often has a brownish colour and their stool is usually very light or light yellow. Newborn jaundice begins two to three days after birth and usually peaks on the fifth day. Then the yellowish colour of the skin disappears almost all over the body and is gone after about 10 to 14 days. In the area of the head, however, the skin may be discoloured longer.
The yellow colour in some babies is caused a substance called bilirubin that is produced naturally in the body. It is formed when red blood cells break down. As long as the baby is in the womb, the bilirubin is transferred from its body via the placenta into the mother's blood. The substance is then broken down in her body. After birth, the child's liver must take over this task. It sometimes takes a few days before that can happen properly. Therefore, the bilirubin spreads throughout the baby’s body and turns their skin and eyeballs yellow. Only in very rare cases is jaundice caused by a disease, for example a disorder of the liver.
After birth, you can be discharged from the hospital with your baby even if they have jaundice. The only problem would be that the amount of bilirubin in their blood is not too high. However, you should make sure that your baby drinks enough and passes enough urine. This is important because this is how the yellow dye leaves the child's body.
If your baby is drinking little and seems sleepy, and if the yellowing of the skin and the other symptoms of jaundice do not go away, you should discuss this with your midwife or go to your paediatrician. Then the amount of bilirubin in your baby's blood can be measured. If it exceeds a certain limit, the baby must be treated. Otherwise, damage to the brain may occur. Treatment involves using a procedure called light therapy or. It causes the yellow colouring to change into a water-soluble substance. It is then excreted in the urine. This relieves the liver.
Premature babies are more likely to suffer from jaundice than babies born around their due date or later. Premature babies’ livers are even less mature than those of babies who were in the womb until the 40th week of pregnancy. Babies who have suffered bruising during birth are also prone to jaundice. The same applies to babies whose blood group does not match the blood group of the mother.