Hello dear readers and welcome back. It’s been a while.
I am so sorry for the silence. As my people say “Koo engani zom” which is transliterated to “e over me” 😂
May is the month for increased awareness on a number of medical conditions; hypertension, stroke, neonatal jaundice and mental health. Considering that I have never written anything special on children, I want to join the discussion on newborn jaundice awareness month in Ghana.
In my article https://hectoriaawekeya.com/sorrows-of-motherhood/, I shared a few lines on my traumatic birthing experience and how it got me depressed😰. I was not alone in the drama, my baby too had his fair share😔. Following the delivery, it was hard for me as I nursed my wounds and tried to keep up with feeding my bundle of joy. I remember telling my mother to watch out for changes in my son’s urine. Because of my knowledge in this area, I was sort of expecting it as breastfeeding was difficult to establish and I was determined to do exclusive breastfeeding😕.
On the third day as I tried to rest, my mum called out that the baby’s diaper was darker than usual. I flew out of my bedroom and was out in second. I quickly took the baby out to do an assessment and behold my son was yellow from head to the breast line level. I was frightened to say the least.
The days following were long and harrowing😣. We went through the long haul of treatment including phototherapy and exchange transfusion. Today, I say thank you to all the doctors who acted timeously to save my little one from the complications of newborn jaundice. Ayeekooo👏🏾 to all the NICU nurses who worked round the clock for vulnerable kids like mine. God continue to bless you all🙏🏾.
Dr. Ami Darko and Nurse Gloria of Akuse Government Hospital, Eastern Region, Ghana
So what is newborn jaundice? This is the yellowish discolouration of the skin, and linings of the body known as mucuos membranes (eg; inner lining of the mouth and the eyelids) as a result of increased levels of bilirubin (yellowish pigment which comes from the breakdown of red blood cells) in the first month of life. It is estimated that about 60% of babies born at term and 80% of babies born before term experience newborn jaundice.
Causes of newborn jaundice. The causes of newborn jaundice can be due to normal changes that occur in babies after they’re born (physiological) or due to disease processes (pathological). One main difference between the two is the onset of the yellowish coloration. Physiological jaundice occur mostly after a day of delivery while the pathological jaundice occur within a day of delivery.
Physiological causes -Massive breakdown of red blood cells – reduced rate at which the yellow pigment is changed into forms that can be easily handled by the body
- Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency (quite common in our setting)
- Any form of infection of the newborn( eg: umbilical cord infection)
- Poor feeding
- Preterm birth/ low birth weight
- Blood group incompatibility (mother and baby)
It is important to note that, irrespective of the cause of the jaundice, complications can occur if not detected and managed on time.
How to detect your baby has jaundice?
- By looking out for yellow discolouration of your baby’s skin and eyes
What to do when you suspect your baby has jaundice 1. Report immediately to any facility near you for assessment. Time is of essence.
What not to do
- Don’t stay at home without any medical assessment and resort to sitting in the sun with the baby aka sunbathing🤨
- Don’t force feed the baby, you may choke him/ her
- Don’t give herbal concoctions nor use camphor balls.
- Do not put breastmilk in the eyes
- Do not report a day after the jaundice is detected.
Complications of newborn jaundice
Newborn jaundice can lead to brain damage as a result of high bilirubin levels in the blood. This condition is known as Kernicterus and can result to
- Cerebral palsy
- Hearing loss
- Learning disabilities
- Late or poor development of milestones such as crawling, standing or walking)
Child under phototherapy
Prevention of newborn jaundice
- Early start of breastfeeding (at least within 1 hour of life, baby must be put to breast). New mothers must particularly be supported by health staff to achieve this.
- Babies must be kept warm by maintaining skin to skin attachment to mothers or fathers.
- Prevention of cord infection by applying chlorhexidine cream or spirit and leaving the cord out of the diaper.
In conclusion, newborn jaundice is real and the complications are dire. One must watch out for it in every newborn to avoid late detection with its consequences.
Early breastfeeding continues to be one sure way of keeping jaundice at bay, I encourage every mother who is of good health to start breastfeeding early and frequently. If for one reason or the other, the mother is indisposed, other feeding options should be discussed and employed on time and the mother or family who finds themselves in such positions should be supported.
Until I come your way again, lets support the call to initiate breastfeeding early to keep the yellow away💪🏾.