Jaundice in a newborn – assessing the risk

Jaundice is a common condition in newborns, and usually not a cause for alarm.  It’s caused by elevated bilirubin levels.  Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells, and the newborn’s immature liver sometimes can’t quite break it down fast enough.  Jaundice frequently requires no treatment at all – just lots of breastfeeding and some indirect sunlight.  But more and more hospitals are wanting to hold onto babies for jaundice treatments, and parents have to wonder if this is really necessary.

There are a number of factors that determine whether a baby needs to be treated for jaundice, including the bilirubin level and the baby’s gestational age at birth.  If you are facing a decision about whether to allow your baby to stay in the hospital for treatment, click here for a great tool to help you assess the situation.

Remember that just because you have your baby in a hospital doesn’t mean the hospital gets to determine your baby’s treatment.  Your child’s medical decisions will always be yours to make, and if they refuse to discharge your baby even though you have decided treatment is unnecessary, leaving AMA (Against Medical Advice) is an option.  Know your rights going into the hospital, and don’t be afraid to stand up to the hospital staff.