If your son or daughter was diagnosed with Hyperbilirubinemia, you might want to know how this condition could have been avoided. You will also want to identify ways to prevent Hyperbilirubinemia in newborns if you are planning more additions to your family.
In many cases, Hyperbilirubinemia cannot be entirely prevented, but early recognition and treatment can help prevent Hyperbilirubinemia from developing into more serious conditions when bilirubin levels continue to rise to increasingly dangerous levels.
Hyperbilirubinemia is most easily prevented in cases of breastfeeding failure jaundice. Feedings should start within an hour of birth and continue every two or three hours at a minimum. Ideally, your newborn should be fed any time they show signs of wanting to eat. Identifying the signs of jaundice early and seeking prompt treatment right away can help prevent your baby’s bilirubin from rising to dangerous levels.
It might also be possible to prevent Hyperbilirubinemia in newborns when the underlying cause is Rh disease or Rh incompatibility. Rh incompatibility means your blood is Rh-negative and your unborn child has Rh-positive blood. Rh incompatibility means your immune system creates Rh antibodies that drive an immune system attack against your baby because your body views your baby’s blood as a foreign object.
Because Rh factors are genetic, no one can choose which Rh type your baby will have. However, if you are Rh-negative and your baby is Rh-positive, Rh incompatibility can be prevented when you receive certain medications at specific times during your pregnancy.
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The Symptoms of Hyperbilirubinemia or Jaundice
Most hospitals today will examine your newborn for the signs and symptoms of jaundice prior to discharging them. Your son or daughter should be carefully examined for signs of jaundice between their third and seventh day of life because this timeframe represents when bilirubin levels typically peak. The following signs or symptoms may suggest that your baby has excessive bilirubin levels:
- Your baby seems listless or lethargic
- Your baby’s cry becomes high-pitched
- Your baby’s skin develops a yellow tinge
- Your baby has difficulty rousing or waking
- The whites of your baby’s eyes look yellow
- Your baby feeds poorly or has slow weight gain
Many of the typical symptoms that help prevent Hyperbilirubinemia in newborns can be seen in other medical conditions as well, which makes prompt medical attention extremely important.
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How Hyperbilirubinemia or Jaundice Is Diagnosed
Timing plays a significant role in diagnosing Hyperbilirubinemia. The timing of the first signs of jaundice can help your baby’s healthcare provider make a specific diagnosis.
- Jaundice in the first 24 hours of birth is usually extremely serious and should be treated right away
- Jaundice on the second or third day usually indicates physiologic jaundice which can also be very serious
- Jaundice toward the end of the first week may come from breastmilk jaundice or from an infection
- Jaundice in the second week is typically caused by breastmilk jaundice but can also be caused by rare liver disorders
Along with attention to timing, your child’s doctor might perform the following tests to reach a confirmed diagnosis:
- Direct and indirect bilirubin levels that will indicate whether bilirubin is bound with other substances by your child’s liver
- Tests to determine your newborn’s red blood cell counts
- A Coomb’s test that types blood for Rh incompatibility
Your child’s doctor will explain each exam and its outcome to you in detail.
When Hyperbilirubinemia or Jaundice Is Untreated or Undiagnosed
The best way to prevent Hyperbilirubinemia in newborns is to pay careful attention to symptoms during prenatal checkups and labor and delivery. Your newborn should also be watched carefully in their first few days of life and symptoms should be diagnosed immediately. When left untreated and undiagnosed, high levels of bilirubin can result in serious complications that include:
- Acute Bilirubin Encephalopathy – bilirubin passing into the brain that can cause significant and lasting brain damage. Signs of acute bilirubin encephalopathy include listlessness, high-pitched crying, poor feeding, backward arching of the neck and body, and fever.
- Kernicterus – is a syndrome that occurs if acute bilirubin encephalopathy causes permanent brain damage. It can result in athetoid cerebral palsy (involuntary and uncontrolled movements), a permanent upward gaze, hearing loss, and improperly developed tooth enamel.
The simplest methods of preventing infant jaundice are good prenatal care and adequate feeding. Your OBGYN should perform prenatal tests and screenings that promote a safe, healthy pregnancy, delivery, and newborn.
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A Lawsuit Can Help You Get the Medical Care Your Newborn Deserves
If you or your doctor notice any of the symptoms of Hyperbilirubinemia, prompt medical treatment is extremely important. If steps to prevent Hyperbilirubinemia in newborns were not taken in your child’s case, you might be entitled to file a birth injury lawsuit on their behalf. Speak to a lawyer near you today to explore your legal options. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529.