Bringing a baby to the world is one of the most joyous moments in human life. This joy can be disturbed by some circumstances, including when your baby becomes sick shortly after their birth. Many conditions can cause your baby to become sick related to the condition of their mother, circumstances of the birth and the conditions that they may develop soon after birth whether related to them or the environment into which they were born. Some conditions are commoner than others, and jaundice of the newborn is one of the commonest conditions.
What is jaundice?
Jaundice is the yellowish discoloration of the skin, the whites of the eyes and the mucous membranes covering the mouth and lips. It occurs when a chemical called bilirubin accumulates in the blood. This accumulation of bilirubin results from a variety of conditions including those related to the blood, the liver, or the biliary passages. Bilirubin is the end result of the breakdown of hemoglobin, which is the main protein of red blood cells that contains iron. It requires processing by the liver to be excreted later in stools.
There are two main types of bilirubin which are direct and indirect. Direct bilirubin is the one that underwent liver metabolism and the indirect is the one that did not. In cases of blood-related conditions, the level of indirect bilirubin rises since the liver cannot process the excess level of bilirubin produced by the breakdown of blood cells, while the direct bilirubin level rises when the biliary passages are blocked, causing it to regurgitate back to the circulation. In cases of liver diseases, both direct and indirect bilirubin levels rise.