Michael Schoenwetter, MD
our pediatric practice we come across many cases of newborn jaundice.
Jaundice, the yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin, is caused by
a chemical called bilirubin. Newborn jaundice is very common. A large
percentage of the newborns that I see do develop jaundice.
Bilirubin is formed from the breakdown of red
blood cells.The liver is responsible for processing the bilirubin.
Newborns livers are not fully functioning. Jaundice occurs when the
newborn's immature liver inefficiently processes the bilirubin.
Most newborn jaundice will go away without
intervention. There are some factors, however, that can make jaundice
worse and would alert your pediatrician to monitor your newborn closely.
We are not only concerned with the absolute
level of jaundice, but how fast the levels are rising, as high levels of
jaundice can cause some problems. Based on multiple factors your doctor
will decide if any intervention is needed. The DVD will explain these
factors and go over newborn jaundice in an easy to understand way so as
to relieve your stress regarding this common newborn issue. Our website
will also offer other newborn resources that will cover such topics as
About the newborn Care DVD
care dvd discusses intervention for newborn jaundice. One of the
treatment modalities of newborn jaundice is phototherapy. Phototherapy
is the process of using specific types of light to change bilirubin-the
chemical that causes jaundice-into substances that the newborn can
excrete easily. For many years phototherapy was provided by spotlights
suspended at a distance from the baby. The light would shine directly on
the baby and the baby's eyes would need protection with eye patches.
The newer mechanism of providing
phototherapy for newborn jaundice is the biliblanket. The biliblanket is
a blanket that can be wrapped around the baby or may be a pad which the
baby can lie on. It uses a form of light that is found in sunlight, but
the harmful ultraviolet light has been filtered out. The lighted blanket
is placed directly against your newborn's skin and absorption of the
light leads to the excretion of the bilirubin. This convenient and safe
form of treatment can be used while you're your newborn is clothed, held
or even nursed. Normally, newborns under phototherapy will have
frequent, loose bowel movements as this is the way that the bilirubin is
removed from the baby.
The length of time the biliblanket is needed
is determined by your doctor based on the severity of the newborn's
jaundice. Find out more about newborn jaundice, when to call your
pediatrician and newborn jaundice treatments on the
Newborn Jaundice and Autism
Jaundice in the newborn period puts children at greater risk for autism,
according to a study from Denmark. The researchers looked at over
700,000 full term newborn babies born between 1994-2004. They found that
newborns that were jaundiced had higher rates of developing autistic
spectrum disorders later in life. The risk was greater in newborns born
to mothers who had previous children and to newborns born between
October and March.
The data is interesting, but how newborn
jaundice and autism relate is a mystery. The study does not support a
cause and effect relationship—it does not state that newborn jaundice
causes autism, just that it might be related. It does seem, however,
that newborn jaundice might be another piece of the confusing puzzle of
how autism develops, and hopefully this puzzle can be figured out over
the next few years.
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