Whether you’ve recently had a baby for the first time or have had several children in the past, you no doubt understand that no two pregnancies or birthing experiences are exactly alike. An issue that causes problems for you in one pregnancy might not even exist in another. Your medical team knows how to closely monitor your and your infant’s conditions, especially during postpartum.
Moments after your baby is born, the attending medical team will observe his or her condition and assign an APGAR rating. APGAR stands for appearance, pulse, grimace, activity and respiration. A low rating suggests that your child might have a concerning underlying health condition, such as high bilirubin levels.
Basic facts about bilirubin
Bilirubin is a byproduct that results during the normal processes occurring in a person’s liver that breaks down red blood cells and aids in digestion. It is typically eliminated from the body through the excretory system. If there is excess bilirubin in a person’s bloodstream, it can cause problems.
Part of your newborn’s APGAR rating includes his or her skin appearance. If the nurse performing the observation notices a yellowish tinge to your child’s skin, a low “appearance” rating might be given, suggesting that your child has jaundice, which can be caused by excess bilirubin in the blood.
Untreated jaundice can cause kernicterus
Your infant might exhibit other symptoms that are often associated with jaundice as well. For instance, if he or she is having trouble feeding, it may be a symptom of jaundice. Erratic eye movements or lack of muscle tone and high-pitched, inconsolable crying are also concerning issues.
If a medical team does not take proper steps to help resolve an infant’s jaundiced condition, it can lead to more serious, even life-threatening problems, such as kernicterus, which is a form of brain damage.
Who is most at risk for jaundice and kernicterus?
If your baby was born before 38 weeks’ gestation, he or she is at greater risk for jaundice. If you and your baby have incompatible blood types, this may also increase a risk for excess bilirubin levels in your child’s blood. Also, if you have had another child who developed jaundice shortly after birth, an infant born after that child may development it as well.
Light therapy, immunoglobulin transfusion and blood transfusion are three available treatments for jaundice. The average postpartum medical team or primary care physician knows what to do if your baby shows signs of excess bilirubin in his or her bloodstream. A failure to act places your child at risk for kernicterus.
If you notice symptoms of jaundice in your child, do not hesitate to discuss his or her condition with your medical team, and if you are not satisfied that a proper diagnosis and response has been given, don’t be afraid to reach out for additional support.