Jaundice is fairly common among newborns in Kentucky hospitals. Approximately 60 percent of babies born in the United States develop jaundice to varying degrees. The condition can lead to serious problems, including brain damage.
Are all babies at the same risk, or are some more apt to become jaundiced than others?
Just as children of Jewish descent are more likely to have Tay Sachs disease and African Americans are more likely to have sickle cell anemia, so children with certain characteristics are at greater risk of becoming jaundiced. Here are some of the risk factors:
- premature birth—Babies born before 37 weeks of gestation have livers that are not fully developed.
- darker skin color—Yellowing may be harder to see.
- East Asian or Mediterranean ancestry—Children of these nationalities, as well as those with certain genetic conditions, are more likely to develop jaundice.
- feeding and elimination problems—Babies who are not taking in enough nourishment or getting rid of waste are at higher risk.
- babies whose sibling had jaundice—If an older sister or brother had jaundice, a baby is more likely to have it too.
- bruising at birth—If a baby has bruises, which increase the amount of bilirubin, he or she is more likely to develop jaundice.
- certain blood characteristics—Women with type O or Rh negative blood have more chance of giving birth to babies with a higher bilirubin level.
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