Normal Bilirubin Levels in Newborns

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Normal Bilirubin Levels in Newborns
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Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment found in stool and blood. High levels of bilirubin in your blood will make your skin look pale and the whites of your eyes turn yellow. The condition is called jaundice. The old blood cells break down, which is completely normal, and leave behind a yellow pigment called bilirubin. It travels to your liver and then goes into the bile duct. It stays in gall bladder from where it enters small intestine as bile to digest fats. The excess bilirubin is excreted with your stool.

What Are the Normal Bilirubin Levels in Newborns?

Normal Bilirubin Levels in Newborns

Normal bilirubin levels are usually under 5mg/dL, but most newborns have it above 5mg/dL and have some kind of jaundice at birth. It happens because the blood breaks down in the same way in newborns as in adults, but newborns have relatively immature pathways of the liver. Their inability to get rid of excess bilirubin results in jaundice.

How to Test Bilirubin Levels in Newborns

If you suspect your baby has jaundice, you will have to take him/her for a blood test. The test involves using a device called a bilirubinometer that throws light on your baby’s skin to calculate the level of bilirubin. It analyzes how the skin absorbs the light. A blood test is also an option that involves pricking your baby’s heel with a needle to take a sample.

A bilirubinometer is a safer option to check jaundice in babies. They may require a blood test if they develop jaundice within the first 24 hours of birth. Your doctor will then compare the findings with normal bilirubin levels in newborns to decide if any treatment is necessary.

Is Newborn Jaundice Harmful?

Newborn jaundice is usually not harmful in most cases because it is only physiologic jaundice. This happens because a baby’s organs are not fully developed yet. This type of jaundice usually becomes worse until the third or fourth day of birth, but it will go away in a week or so.

Sometimes, jaundice does not get better in a couple of weeks and the levels of bilirubin keep increasing. The condition is called kernicterus and it can damage the brain. It responds well to treatment though.

Other factors may also cause jaundice in children such as a problem with digestive system or an infection. Any mismatch of mom’s blood with baby’s blood (Rh incompatibility) may also cause jaundice.

Here is a bit more about when newborns with jaundice may need some treatment.

Levels of Bilirubin