Neonatal Cholestasis

Neonatal cholestasis is a medical condition in which the flow of bile from the liver cells to the intestine is slowed down. This condition most likely affects children right after birth or within three months. It is a form of jaundice that disables a baby's metabolic functions.

If your child suffers from jaundice beyond two to three weeks of age, he or she suffers from neonatal cholestasis. Babies can improve with specific treatment options, but medical professionals suggest timely treatment. Aside from that, the best prognosis is also recommended for a quick recovery.

Types of Neonatal Cholestasis

Neonatal cholestasis is classified into two types, which include biliary and hepatocellular cholestasis.

Biliary cholestasis occurs when the bile ducts are either obstructive, extrahepatic, or intrahepatic. And hepatocellular cholestasis is a defect in metabolism, membrane transport, and embryogenesis.

Symptoms of Neonatal Cholestasis

Yellow eyes and skin are the most common symptoms of neonatal cholestasis in babies. This is mostly due to jaundice, the first sign of cholestasis. Most babies do not experience jaundice after birth due to liver problems. But, for some, jaundice is an underlying health condition that worsens neonatal cholestasis disease.

Some of the later symptoms of neonatal cholestasis in babies include:

  • Feeling fatigued
  • The baby isn’t eating properly.
  • Infants are facing difficulty gaining weight.
  • Suffers from frequent itching
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Excessive bleeding or bruising

Causes of Neonatal Cholestasis

One of the most common causes of neonatal cholestasis is biliary atresia. The bile ducts are formed correctly or have been damaged since birth in this condition. As a result, the bile ducts cannot effectively transport the bile from the baby’s liver to the intestine, causing the disorder. Several underlying conditions can also cause neonatal cholestasis, such as:

  • Infections
  • Anatomic disorders
  • Genetic disorders
  • Immunity disorders
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Specific drugs or toxins

When Should I See the Doctor?

If a baby is showing symptoms such as dark urine, light-coloured stools, and jaundice, then seek a doctor’s help. Apart from that, if a baby has jaundice but is also suffering from other possible abnormalities in the skeleton, eyes, skin, or heart, then there is an immediate need for medical attention. Book your appointment with a specialist doctor right away.

Risk Factors Associated with Neonatal Cholestasis

Neonatal cholestasis is a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment. There are some instances or attributes that increase the risk that a baby will experience liver problems upon birth. Hence, the risk factors include:

  • Premature birth
  • Bruising during the birth
  • The different blood type of the baby from that of the mother
  • Lacking nutrition from breastfeeding

Complications Associated with Neonatal Cholestasis

For a baby, the liver is the most important organ for getting rid of poisons from the body. It is also a responsible organ for building proteins such as albumin. Moreover, it also gives rise to clotting factors necessary for a healthy life. Bile transportation from the liver to the intestine is also important as it helps the body absorb fat and other nutrients.

Babies with cholestasis will not have healthy livers, which will make it hard for their bodies to do these things. Children with this problem might experience difficulties digesting food, and this might result in malnutrition. For severe complications, cholestasis might just scar the liver, which is permanent damage. Thus, a liver transplant is the only resort for overcoming such a condition.

If this condition goes untreated, the baby might experience liver failure or even death in one year.

Prevention of Neonatal Cholestasis

The only way to try to prevent neonatal cholestasis is to discontinue parenteral nutrition for premature babies as soon as possible. The doctors might recommend that the babies get along with enteral or trophic feeding. Hence, this will increase the chances of better bile flow, intestinal motility, and gallbladder contraction.

Treatment of Neonatal Cholestasis

The doctors will advise you to help your baby with certain vitamin supplements, specific medicines, or special formulas. Low-fat formulas are recommended for babies with cholestasis, as they reduce the chances of causing diarrhoea. But all of this advice and more will be given only after doctors have properly examined your baby's condition. So, if your baby exhibits adverse symptoms later in life, schedule an appointment and consult your doctor right away.


Neonatal cholestasis affects a baby’s life in a very critical manner. However, the treatment of it and the outcome depend on the underlying cause. In most babies, the condition improves and heals over time, whereas some babies do not respond to the treatment due to delayed diagnosis. So, it is advised to note your baby’s day-to-day health and get it to a doctor if you see anything unusual.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru - Brookefield. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. What might be the major cause of cholestasis in newborns?

Bacterial infection is the major cause of cholestasis in newborns. Doctors take immediate action to assist them in making improvements.

2. Can neonatal cholestasis go away forever?

Some babies with this condition get better completely, while others might get worse if their treatments don't work.

3. Are there some lifestyle habits that reduce cholestasis in babies?

Yes, you can consider giving oatmeal baths, cool baths, or icing the itchy skin portions to reduce the effects. But doctors still need a thorough diagnosis to prescribe the correct medications.

4. What is the most prominent sign that a baby is experiencing neonatal cholestasis?

Jaundice is a clear sign that a baby has cholestasis, and it shows up soon after birth.

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