Sunday, February 25, 2007

What's the deal with Hyberbilirubinemia?

[Please note, I am not a doctor and this is not intended to be medical advice.]

Several of you have asked for more information about the health issues that Noah has dealt with since his birth a week ago. Since his mom and I are first-class worriers, we've taken the time to study up on hyperbilirubinemia, the condition that Noah's doctors believe he has. Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition that is characterized by early jaundice in newborns, but is confirmed by blood test.

Many babies develop jaundice within a couple of days after birth. This is a result of their immature liver trying to recycle red blood cells. Bilirubin is part of the blood that if not flushed out of the body properly can cause jaundice (it also is responsible for that yellow color in bruises and the brown color of stool). In a very few number of cases, babies with very high bilirubin levels can end up with deposits in the brain that can cause mental deficits. Noah's doctors responded aggressively to an early high reading with phototherapy, which can help break down the bilirubin and get it to pass out of the body. In the first couple of days, while the baby's stool is transitioning from the meconium stool to the breastmilk (or formula, I suppose) stool, the color is dark green and looks like it has little black seeds in it. The appearance of these seeds in the diaper means the body is getting rid of the excess bilirubin.

Noah's levels have been coming down from a high of 16 at about two days after birth to just over 14 this afternoon. The older the baby gets, the higher the level they can tolerate, though eventually the levels settle somewhere around 1 for adults.

For those interested, a couple links to read up on hyperbilirubinemia and breastmilk jaundice:

American Association of Pediatrics - Mangement of Hyperbilirubinemia

Cost Consideration in Hyperbilirubinemia Treatment (requires registration)

Breastmilk Jaundice

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