What Causes Elevated Bilirubin In Newborns

Healthy Vs High Bilirubin Levels

Approach to Jaundice – types and causes of hyperbilirubinemia, investigations

Typically, bilirubin levels fall somewhere between 0.3 and 1.0 milligrams per deciliter . Anything above 1.2 mg/dL is usually considered elevated.

Healthy bilirubin range

Having high bilirubin can be a sign of several conditions. Your doctor will take your symptoms, as well as any other test results, into account to help narrow down a diagnosis.

How Can I Prevent Jaundice In My Newborn

Jaundice in newborns is normal and usually cant be prevented. You can reduce the risk that your baby will develop severe jaundice by feeding them often. Frequent feedings stimulate regular bowel movements which will help your baby get rid of the bilirubin.

  • Breastfed babies: You should breastfeed your baby eight to 12 times a day during their first week of life.
  • Formula-fed babies: You should give your baby one to two ounces of formula every two to three hours during their first week of life. Ensure at least eight feeds in a 24-hour period.

Also, make sure your babys healthcare provider checks your babys bilirubin level before you leave the hospital. Schedule a follow-up visit during your babys first week of life to have the bilirubin level checked again.

How Is Infant Jaundice Diagnosed

Your babys doctor will watch for signs of jaundice while you and your baby are still in the hospital. Your babys bilirubin levels can be checked 24 hours after birth. A probe may be used that estimates the bilirubin level just by touching the skin. If the level is high, it will be confirmed by a blood test.

If youre at home and your babys skin becomes yellow, call your babys doctor right away. He or she will measure the amount of your babys bilirubin through a blood test. The doctor will probably measure your babys bilirubin level several times. If necessary, your baby will be treated for infant jaundice. This usually keeps the bilirubin level from getting high enough to hurt your baby.

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When Should My Baby See Their Healthcare Provider

You should return for a visit with your babys healthcare provider shortly after leaving the hospital. Your babys bilirubin level will be at its highest when theyre between three and five days old. The timing of your visit will depend on your babys age when you left the hospital, their bilirubin level when you left the hospital and other factors.

What To Expect At Home

Jaundice Can Cause Kernicterus and Cerebral Palsy

If your child did not have jaundice at birth but now has it, you should call your provider. Bilirubin levels are generally the highest when a newborn is 3 to 5 days old.

If the bilirubin level is not too high or not rising quickly, you can do phototherapy at home with a fiber optic blanket, which has tiny bright lights in it. You may also use a bed that shines light up from the mattress. A nurse will come to your home to teach you how to use the blanket or bed and to check on your child.

The nurse will return daily to check your child’s:

  • Weight
  • Intake of breast milk or formula
  • Number of wet and poopy diapers
  • Skin, to see how far down the yellow color goes
  • Bilirubin level

You must keep the light therapy on your child’s skin and feed your child every 2 to 3 hours . Feeding prevents dehydration and helps bilirubin leave the body.

Therapy will continue until your baby’s bilirubin level lowers enough to be safe. Your baby’s provider will want to check the level again in 2 to 3 days.

If you are having trouble breastfeeding, contact a breastfeeding nurse specialist.

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What Are Jaundice And Kernicterus

Jaundice is the yellow color seen in the skin of many newborns. Jaundice happens when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the babys blood. During pregnancy, the mothers liver removes bilirubin for the baby, but after birth the babys liver must remove the bilirubin. In some babies, the liver might not be developed enough to efficiently get rid of bilirubin. When too much bilirubin builds up in a new babys body, the skin and whites of the eyes might look yellow. This yellow coloring is called jaundice.

When severe jaundice goes untreated for too long, it can cause a condition called kernicterus. Kernicterus is a type of brain damage that can result from high levels of bilirubin in a babys blood. It can cause athetoid cerebral palsy and hearing loss. Kernicterus also causes problems with vision and teeth and sometimes can cause intellectual disabilities. Early detection and management of jaundice can prevent kernicterus.

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When Your Child Was In The Hospital

Your baby has newborn jaundice. This common condition is caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Your child’s skin and sclera will look yellow.

Some newborns need to be treated before they leave the hospital. Others may need to go back to the hospital when they are a few days old. Treatment in the hospital most often lasts 1 to 2 days. Your child needs treatment when their bilirubin level is too high or rising too quickly.

To help break down the bilirubin, your child will be placed under bright lights in a warm, enclosed bed. The infant will wear only a diaper and special eye shades. Your baby may have an intravenous line to give them fluids.

Rarely, your baby may need treatment called a double volume blood exchange transfusion. This is used when the baby’s bilirubin level is very high.

Unless there are other problems, your child will be able to feed normally. Your child should feed every 2 to 2 ½ hours .

The health care provider may stop phototherapy and send your child home when their bilirubin level is low enough to be safe. Your child’s bilirubin level will need to be checked in the provider’s office, 24 hours after therapy stops, to make sure the level is not rising again.

Possible side effects of phototherapy are watery diarrhea, dehydration, and skin rash that will go away once the therapy stops.

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Jaundice In Newborns Every New Parent Should Know

4 minute read

Newborn jaundice is a condition where a newborns skin and eyes turn yellow because a high level of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced during normal breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice is one of the most common conditions in newborns that requires medical attention. Approximately 50% of term babies and up to 80% of preterm babies develop jaundice in the first week of life. Since jaundice in newborns, if left untreated, might lead to serious complications, parents need to know jaundice and its related conditions in order to seek medical assistance as soon as the abnormalities are noticed.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Jaundice In Newborns

Hyperbilirubinemia: Symptoms, Treatment, Phototherapy, Nursing Care- Maternity Nursing- Newborn Care

The main sign of jaundice is the yellowing of your babys skin. You can see it best in natural lighting, such as in front of a window. It usually appears in your babys face first. The whites of your babys eyes and under their tongue may look yellow. As the level of bilirubin increases, the yellowing may move to your babys chest, belly , arms and legs. Jaundice may be difficult to see if your baby has darker skin. But you should still be able to tell if your baby has jaundice by the color of their eyes and under their tongue.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Jaundice

Jaundice is very common in newborn babies. It makes a babys skin and the whites of the eyes turn a yellow colour. You may notice it between 1 and 4 days after your baby is born. It will first appear on your babys face and chest.

Babies who have higher levels of bilirubin may seem very tired and cranky, and feed poorly because they are too hard to wake up.

What Is The Outlook For Jaundice In Newborns

Jaundice in newborns is common. For most babies, jaundice will get better without treatment within one to two weeks. But its important to have your babys bilirubin level checked. A high bilirubin level can lead to serious health conditions if its not treated immediately. These conditions include cerebral palsy, deafness and kernicterus, a type of brain damage.

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What Is Bilirubin: Causes Risks Symptoms And Treatment Of High Bilirubin

Many elements allow us to determine our state of health when a study of a blood sample is made in our blood. Many of these elements are cells with different functions in our body, such as red blood cells or white blood cells. In contrast, others are products of the metabolic processes of the organs, such as uric acid, and in this case, bilirubin, which shows a very characteristic sign when it is elevated. In this FastlyHealarticle, we will explain why total bilirubin in the blood rises, how this manifests itself physically and what you should do in these cases.

Which Newborns Are At Risk For Hyperbilirubinemia

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About 60% of full-term newborns get jaundice. So do 80% of premature babies. Babies born to mothers with diabetes or Rh disease are more likely to have this condition. Babies who underwent a difficult birthing process that resulted in significant bruising or bleeding under the scalp are also at risk for hyperbilirubinemia.

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What Are The Normal Bilirubin Levels In Newborns

Normal bilirubin levels are usually under 5mg/dL, but most newborns have it above 5mg/dL and have some kind of jaundice at birth. It happens because the blood breaks down in the same way in newborns as in adults, but newborns have relatively immature pathways of the liver. Their inability to get rid of excess bilirubin results in jaundice.

How to Test Bilirubin Levels in Newborns

If you suspect your baby has jaundice, you will have to take him/her for a blood test. The test involves using a device called a bilirubinometer that throws light on your baby’s skin to calculate the level of bilirubin. It analyzes how the skin absorbs the light. A blood test is also an option that involves pricking your baby’s heel with a needle to take a sample.

A bilirubinometer is a safer option to check jaundice in babies. They may require a blood test if they develop jaundice within the first 24 hours of birth. Your doctor will then compare the findings with normal bilirubin levels in newborns to decide if any treatment is necessary.

How Is Jaundice In Newborns Diagnosed

Your babys healthcare provider will check for signs of jaundice while youre still in the hospital. Your babys bilirubin level will be highest when theyre three to five days old. Its important that your babys healthcare provider checks them again within this time frame.

Your babys healthcare provider can estimate your babys bilirubin level by placing a probe on your babys head. This test shows the transcutaneous bilirubin level. If this level is high, your babys healthcare provider will order a blood test to confirm the results. Theyll prick your babys heel to collect a small sample of blood. The blood test shows the total serum bilirubin level.

The American Academy of Pediatrics uses a newborn jaundice level chart to determine if a baby needs treatment. The chart is based on your babys total serum bilirubin level and age.

Total serum bilirubin level Age of newborn

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Main Reasons To Test For Bilirubin In Newborns

If bilirubin is not being connected to the glucose-derived acid in the liver or is not being effectively eliminated from the blood, it can suggest that there is damage to your liver. Checking for bilirubin in the blood is for that reason a great way of testing for liver damage.

Moderate jaundice in newborns can either be because of normal modifications in the metabolism of bilirubin, or it can be the first indication of a medical issue. If the level at birth is too high, an infants blood may be tested a number of times in the first couple of days of their life to keep an eye on liver function. Jaundice in a newborn can be extremely serious and dangerous if left untreated.

Another factor for high bilirubin levels might be that more red cell are being ruined than normal. This is called hemolysis.

In some cases bilirubin is determined as part of a panel of tests. Often, the liver is evaluated with a group of tests that also consist of:

  • alanine transaminase
  • overall protein

How Is Jaundice Diagnosed In A Child

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Newborn babies should be tested for jaundice before going home from the hospital or birthing center. Babies at risk for jaundice, or those who are still jaundiced more than usual, might need to be checked again after a few days. Your childs health care provider can tell you if this is needed. If your baby is still jaundiced after 2 weeks of age , your provider will most likely order a blood test for total and direct bilirubin to better understand the type of jaundice and what other tests to do.

Your babys health care provider will first examine your child for signs of jaundice. Other jaundice tests may include a:

  • Blood test: which measures the amount of bilirubin in the blood
  • Skin test: which uses a special light to measure bilirubin in the skin
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Why Does Bilirubin Rise In Newborns

During the nine months in which a baby develops in its mothers womb, the different organs go through maturation processes that usually have different rhythms. While some organs may be well-formed after several months, others may be just beginning to develop, while others finish setting after birth. This has the consequence that the body of a tiny baby does not perform the functions in the same way as a child of a couple of years, a teenager, or an adult. As a part of this gradual development of the organs, babies can present specific characteristics related to a particular biological process, such as the increase in bilirubin in newborns. In this FastlyHealarticle, we will talk about why bilirubin rises in newborns, a condition that, although considered normal, may concern some parents.

What Causes Jaundice In Newborns

Jaundice happens when your babys blood has too much bilirubin. Bilirubin is a chemical your body makes when it breaks down old red blood cells. Your liver normally filters bilirubin from your blood. Your body gets rid of it when you poop.

If your babys liver hasnt developed enough to get rid of bilirubin, it can start to build up. This buildup of bilirubin causes your babys skin to look yellow. Most babies develop jaundice in their first few days of life. This is because it takes a few days for your baby’s liver to develop and get better at removing bilirubin.

Severe jaundice can occur if your baby has:

  • A blood infection .
  • A low oxygen level .
  • A liver condition such as biliary atresia.

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Side Effects Of High Bilirubin Levels In Newborns

Once the baby gets born, there are a lot of professionals closely monitoring him to make sure that everything is alright. If the baby has high bilirubin levels, the side effects of high bilirubin levels in newborns may appear which means that the baby will have jaundice. This is normal in the majority of the cases.

What Causes Hyperbilirubinemia


During pregnancy, the placenta excretes bilirubin. When your baby is born, your babys liver must take over this function. There are several causes of hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice, including:

  • physiologic jaundice: occurs as a normal response to your babys limited ability to excrete bilirubin in the first days of life
  • breast milk jaundice: about 2 percent of breastfed babies develop jaundice after the first week
  • breastfeeding jaundice: occurs in some babys in the first week due to low intake or dehydration
  • jaundice from hemolysis: a condition that results from the breakdown of red blood cells due to hemolytic disease of the newborn , polycythemia, or hemorrhage
  • inadequate liver function: due to infection or other factors

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What Is Gilberts Syndrome

Gilberts syndrome is referred to as a mild form of high bilirubin. Because the process of bilirubin removal in the body is slowed down, the levels can increase and decrease. This fluctuation isnt near enough to trigger yellowing skin, but some people may notice sickening symptoms like fatigue or stomach pain.

Gilberts syndrome is mostly noticed when a blood test is done for other purposes. A familys pattern of heredity can be seen in the gene connected to Gilberts syndrome.

What Are The Symptoms Of Newborn Jaundice

The first sign of jaundice is a yellowing of a babys skin and eyes. The yellowing may begin within 2 to 4 days after birth and may start in the face before spreading down across the body.

Bilirubin levels typically peak between 3 to 7 days after birth.

If a finger lightly pressed on a babys skin causes that area of skin to become yellow, its likely a sign of jaundice.

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