Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia Causes and Remedies
Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is the most common complication occurring among nearly 70% of all newborns that generally does not require medical assistance and resolves itself by the first week of infant’s life. Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia becomes possible due to 2 main factors, namely, infants’ red blood cells’ shorter life span and immaturity of the newborns’ digestive system which is unable to efficiently excrete high levels of bilirubin.
Higher than normal bilirubin levels in newborns, especially born preterm or with low birth weight, are more likely to cause toxic reactions that might have long term health complications including brain damage, cerebral palsy and loss of hearing if left untreated. Close monitoring of bilirubin levels in newborns is carried out by a series of blood tests that are performed every 8-12 hours if there’s an indication of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia.
Bilirubin phototherapy is today’s most commonly recommended neonatal jaundice treatment that involves placing an undressed infant diagnosed with neonatal hyperbilirubinemia under special blue lights that are very effective in helping break down bilirubin in newborn’s blood. Frequent feedings with breast milk or formula enable newborns to stay hydrated throughout the neonatal jaundice treatment and enhance excretion of bilirubin through urine and stools.
Certain types of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia including breast milk and blood type incompatibility jaundices require special treatment.
In cases when mother’s breast milk contains elements that might present additional difficulties for the infant to break down bilirubin, mothers are advised to abstain from breastfeeding for a 24-hour period to help establish normal bilirubin levels in newborns and supplement with formula while continuing to pump to maintain proper milk supply. This type of neonatal jaundice treatment remains controversial up to this day.
With blood type incompatibility neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, a mother normally receives an injection of RH immune globulin within a couple of days after giving birth to avoid further jaundice complications in the infant.
Majority of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia scenarios are not dangerous and do not require further neonatal jaundice treatment.