Many factors contribute to the formation of Hyperbilirubinemia in newborns. Among the contributing factors of Hyperbilirubinemia is a newborn’s limited ability to excrete bilirubin in the first few days following their birth. In utero, your placenta does this job. After his birth, your baby must learn to do it for himself which can take time….
What Causes Hyperbilirubinemia?
While you are pregnant, your body does a myriad of things to comfort and protect your unborn child and to prepare your son or daughter for life outside your womb. Your placenta does much of this work. In fact, during your pregnancy, it excretes bilirubin for your baby. When your baby is born, his liver must take over this important function. Many babies struggle to complete this important task, which leads to infant hyperbilirubinemia.
There are several causes of hyperbilirubinemia that can vary according to the type of hyperbilirubinemia or jaundice your child has. Physiologic jaundice occurs in response to your baby's failure to excrete bilirubin in his first few days of life. A small percentage of babies develop breast milk jaundice after their first week of life. This type of jaundice is believed to result from a substance in the breast milk that causes rapid reabsorption of bilirubin through your baby’s intestinal tract.
Breastfeeding jaundice is the result of failure to initiate breastfeeding, which can lead to dehydration, insufficient urine production, and a dangerous buildup of bilirubin. Late preterm infants are particularly vulnerable to this type of jaundice because they may lack the coordination and strength to successfully breastfeed.
Jaundice that results from hemolysis can occur with the breakdown of red blood cells due to Rh disease, or it can occur as the result of too many red blood cells releasing bilirubin. Jaundice can also be related to inadequate liver function caused by infection.
The Difference Between Hyperbilirubinemia and Jaundice
As you try to understand your child’s diagnosis and what causes hyperbilirubinemia, you will hear the word jaundice, as well. These two medical terms are often used interchangeably. Of course, you will want to understand the subtle difference between hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice to understand what each condition means for your son or daughter.
Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition where there is too much bilirubin in your baby’s blood. When your baby’s red blood cells break down, they form bilirubin. When babies cannot easily excrete bilirubin, it builds up in their body’s blood, tissues, and fluids. This condition is called hyperbilirubinemia.
Bilirubin has a pigment that gives it a yellowish tinge. It can cause your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes to look yellow. This condition is called jaundice. Depending on what causes hyperbilirubinemia, your baby may appear jaundiced at birth or any point after birth.
How Jaundice Is Treated
In many babies, mild cases of infant jaundice often clear up on their own. Moderate to severe cases might require a longer than normal hospital stay immediately after birth. Treatments to lower your baby's bilirubin levels may include light therapy under a specialized medical lamp that produces beneficial light in the blue-green spectrum. This specialized light changes the shape and structure of bilirubin molecules.
Intravenous immunoglobulin is used to treat Rh incompatibility by reducing levels of antibodies and decreasing the likelihood of an exchange transfusion. An exchange transfusion is rarely used to treat jaundice. An exchange transfusion repeatedly removes small amounts of your baby’s blood and replaces it with healthy donor blood. This treatment can dilute bilirubin and maternal antibodies.
How Hyperbilirubinemia Is Treated
Your baby's doctor will decide on a specific course of treatment for hyperbilirubinemia based on your child’s gestational age, general health, the extent of the disease, what specifically causes hyperbilirubinemia, and his ability to tolerate certain medications and procedures.
The goal of treatment for hyperbilirubinemia is to prevent your baby’s bilirubin from increasing to dangerous levels. During phototherapy treatments, a specialized light is used to decrease bilirubin levels. Your baby’s eyes will be protected, and their temperature monitored during the phototherapy process.
During phototherapy, your infant may be placed under a specialized, fiberoptic, medical blanket that can be used alone or in conjunction with regular phototherapy. During an exchange transfusion, your baby's damaged blood is systematically replaced with fresh blood to increase his red blood cell count and lower his bilirubin levels.
Increased hydration with breastfeeding or pumping breast milk for dehydrated babies or babies with excessive weight loss is another treatment option. This treatment is offered to breastfed infants who are receiving phototherapy. Additionally, any identified underlying cause of hyperbilirubinemia, such as infection, will also be treated.
Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer in Your State Today
Learning what causes hyperbilirubinemia can leave you frustrated and angry. When you learn that your child’s hyperbilirubinemia could have been prevented, it can lead to even greater frustration. An attorney can help you hold the right medical professionals responsible for their action–or lack of action–that may have led to your child’s current condition. Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation review of your case with an attorney in your state today.
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…
Hyperbilirubinemia is a serious medical condition that can have severe consequences. It can also be a precursor to other ailments or diseases in newborns. In some children, hyperbilirubinemia can be harmless. In others, it can be harmful, depending on what caused the condition in the first place. Its severity can also play a role in…