Neonatal Jaundice


Neonatal jaundice is a common condition in newborns that can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes. It is caused by an excess of bilirubin, a product of the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Although mostly harmless, neonatal jaundice must be carefully monitored by medical professionals to ensure it does not progress to a more serious condition. Early detection and treatment are essential for the health of the newborn. With timely intervention, neonatal jaundice can be managed with minimal risk to the baby's health.

What is neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by an excess of bilirubin in newborn babies. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced when red blood cells break down, and it normally passes through the liver and is eliminated in the stool. In newborns, however, the liver may not be able to process bilirubin quickly enough, leading to a buildup. It typically appears within two days after birth and disappears within two weeks. Treatment may include phototherapy or other blood transfusions if needed.

What are the causes of neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal jaundice is caused by an imbalance between the production and breakdown of bilirubin in a newborn's body. Bilirubin is a yellow-coloured waste product that is produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. When there is a higher level of bilirubin the newborn's liver can break down, it builds up in the body and causes jaundice. Other causes include an immature liver, infections, certain drugs taken during pregnancy, or incompatibility between the mother's and the baby's blood types. In some cases, no cause can be found.

What are the symptoms of neonatal jaundice?

The symptoms of neonatal jaundice include:

  • Neonatal jaundice is characterised by yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
  • This occurs due to the accumulation of bilirubin, which happens when red blood cells break down faster than the infant's body can process them.
  • Other signs of neonatal jaundice include:
    • Dark urine
    • Pale stools
    • Lethargy or irritability
    • Difficulty feeding
    • Poor appetite

When should one see a doctor for neonatal jaundice?

It is recommended that parents of newborns seek medical attention if their baby's skin or eyes become yellow at any point in the first two weeks after birth. In some cases, jaundice can be detected in the first 24 hours after birth and should always be monitored closely by a doctor. If a baby is born prematurely or has had a difficult birth, it will likely require more frequent check-ups for jaundice. Additionally, if a baby shows signs of lethargy, fever, or diarrhoea alongside jaundice, urgent medical advice should be sought.

What are the risk factors for neonatal jaundice?

The risk factors for neonatal jaundice include:

  • Premature birth
  • Family history of neonatal jaundice
  • Rh incompatibility between mother and baby
  • Being born as multiples (e.g., twins or triplets)
  • Very low birth weight
  • ABO incompatibility between mother and baby
  • Breastfeeding difficulty
  • Infections
  • Liver disorder


Neonatal jaundice is a common condition in newborn babies that can be serious if left untreated. Treatment for neonatal jaundice involves phototherapy and, in some cases, blood transfusions. Phototherapy uses light to break down the bilirubin in the baby's blood, while exchange transfusions are used when levels are very high. With prompt treatment and monitoring by healthcare professionals, neonatal jaundice can be easily managed. This highlights the importance of early detection and swift medical intervention to ensure the best outcomes for newborn babies with this condition.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, DELHI-NCR - Moti Nagar. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. What is the relationship between neonatal jaundice and bilirubin levels in newborns?

Neonatal jaundice occurs when bilirubin levels are elevated in a newborn, which results from an immature liver's inability to process it.

2. How is hyperbilirubinemia treated in a newborn?

Hyperbilirubinemia is typically treated with phototherapy, which helps break down bilirubin in the bloodstream.

3. Is there a correlation between breastfeeding and the risk of developing neonatal jaundice?

Yes, breastfeeding can increase the risk of developing neonatal jaundice due to the high levels of unconjugated bilirubin present in breast milk.

4. What factors can influence bilirubin production in newborns?

Bilirubin production can be influenced by various factors such as prematurity, blood group incompatibility between mother and baby, infections, or certain medical conditions.

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