Jaundice is a condition commonly associated with a yellowing of the skin and eyes. This occurs in roughly sixty percent of infants and is referred to as “newborn jaundice.” While it is fairly common and most infants heal without treatment, a misdiagnosis or failure to treat severe cases can result in lifelong medical problems, developmental delays, or even death. Prolonged jaundice could also indicate other serious blood disorders or deficiencies and should therefore not be ignored.

What Is Newborn Jaundice?

Jaundice is most commonly identified by a significant yellowing of the skin. Jaundice is rarely a serious condition and usually dissipates without treatment after a few weeks. Typically, jaundice begins in the face and eventually spreads to the rest of the body. It is attributed to high bodily levels of a naturally occurring chemical called bilirubin. Bilirubin has a yellow color and is a byproduct of red blood cell production.

Newborn Jaundice Symptoms

The most notable symptom of jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes. This usually occurs within forty eight to ninety six hours after the baby is born. This discoloration is typically best detected in bright light. Jaundice can also be detected by gently pressing a finger onto the skin of the baby. If the skin appears yellow rather than white or pink, it is possible that the newborn has jaundice.

Other symptoms related to problematic newborn jaundice could include:

  • Chronic high-pitched crying
  • Chronic fatigue or trouble waking up
  • Trouble gaining weight
  • Jaundice that lasts longer than three weeks

Newborn Jaundice Causes

Jaundice is fairly common in newborns. It is caused as a result of the overabundance of bilirubin, a byproduct of red blood cell production that is usually regulated by the liver. While jaundice is primarily the result of one cause, that is to say, too much bilirubin, there are many different causes for this overabundance and some could require medical attention. Jaundice is also divided into two categories and the causes for each differ slightly. Complications with breastfeeding are also highly linked with cases of neonatal jaundice.

Physiological Jaundice

Physiological jaundice is the most common form of neonatal jaundice. It occurs purely as a result of high levels of bilirubin that would normally be regulated by the liver and by the excretory system. Complications with gut bacteria and low enzyme levels can also contribute to this.

Pathological Jaundice

Pathological jaundice is generally considered a more serious form of newborn jaundice. It is characterized by higher levels of bilirubin and tends to persist longer than physiological jaundice. Pathological jaundice also tends to be associated with other factors such as infection and maternal medical drug use.

Newborn Jaundice Treatments

Jaundice is very common in neonates and, in many cases, symptoms disappear without any treatment or medical intervention. The most common type of treatment is known as phototherapy. Phototherapy exposes the newborn to white light which mimics the effects of the sun, for short periods at a time. This treatment has been shown to successfully lower bilirubin levels and alleviate the symptoms of jaundice. For infants exhibiting extremely high levels of bilirubin, doctors may opt to perform an exchange transfusion to avoid permanent neurological damage.

Newborn Jaundice Legal Help

As newborn jaundice is a relatively common condition, occurring in roughly 3 out of 5 newborns, it might be considered a benign affliction that does not require attention. However, if your child has suffered long-term damage or afflictions and also had newborn jaundice, it is possible that an oversight resulted in allowing a severe form of jaundice to go untreated. If your child had jaundice and you suspect that your child developed any afflictions as a result of failure to treat or diagnose a problem, it is imperative to speak with a qualified birth injury attorney who can advise you on the proper steps to take in order to seek justice.




“Infant Jaundice.” Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Web. 18 Jan. 2015. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infant-jaundice/basics/symptoms/con-20019637>.

“Newborn Jaundice: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 18 Jan. 2015. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001559.htm>.

“Jaundice.” HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. 18 Jan. 2015. <http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Jaundice.aspx>.