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Everything you need to know about neonatal jaundice

Newborn baby's skin and eyes turn yellow when they develop jaundice. While jaundice will disappear within 2 to 3 weeks.

Written by Kristina Das |Published : July 28, 2018 11:26 AM IST

Jaundice develops in many newborn babies because they normally produce increased levels of bilirubin. It is yellowish in colour and it is produced when red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin is removed from the bloodstream by the liver. But in newborns, more than liver the body produce more bilirubin. In adults, the liver processes bilirubin, which then passes it through the intestinal tract. However, the good news is that in most cases, as the baby's liver starts developing and helps the bilirubin pass through the body, newborn jaundice goes away on its own.

Newborn baby's skin and eyes turn yellow when they develop jaundice. While jaundice will disappear within 2 to 3 weeks. Jaundice that persists longer than three weeks may be a symptom of an underlying condition. Additionally, excessive production of bilirubin can put a baby at risk for cerebral palsy, deafness, etc. That is why newborn babies should be examined for jaundice before discharge from the hospital, and again a few days after discharge.

Causes of newborn jaundice:

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Babies born before 37 weeks' gestation or premature babies are always at highest risk for developing newborn jaundice. A newborn's who aren't getting enough breast milk. Even babies whose blood type isn't compatible with the blood type of their mother. They can develop a buildup of antibodies that can destroy their red blood cells and cause a sudden rise in bilirubin levels.

Other causes of newborn jaundice include liver problems, bruising at birth or internal bleeding, abnormality in baby's red blood cells, an enzyme deficiency or an infection

Symptoms of newborn jaundice:

Yellowing of a baby's skin and eyes is the first sign of jaundice. It may begin within two to four days after birth and may start in the face before spreading down across the body. Bilirubin levels typically peak between 3 to 7 days after birth. Secondly, if the baby's skin becomes yellow when finger lightly pressed on that particular area.

When to see a doctor:

When jaundice spreads or becomes more intense. When the baby develops a fever over 100 F (38 C). When the yellow colour of the skin and eyes become darker. When the baby feeds poorly, appears lethargic and cries a lot.


You should take your baby for a checkup for jaundice within three to five days after birth. The infant will need a follow-up visit if there's a change in his condition.


Phototherapy is the best treatment, which involves placing the baby under special lights in the hospital for several hours.

Image Source: Shutterstock

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