Diagnosing jaundice in newborn babies

Your baby will bechecked for jaundice within 72 hours of being born during the newborn physical examination.

However, you should keep an eye out for signs of the conditionafter you return home asit cansometimes take up to a week to appear.

When you're at home with your baby, you should look out for yellowing of their skin or the whites of their eyes.Gently pressing your fingers on the tip of their nose or on their forehead can make it easier for you to spot any yellowing.

You should also check your baby'surine and poo. Your baby may have jaundice if their urineis yellow (a newborn baby'surine should be colourless) or their poo is pale.

You should speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP as soon as possible if you think your babymay havejaundice. Tests will need to be carried out to determine whether any treatment is necessary.

Your baby needs to be undressed during thisso their skin can be looked at under goodpreferably natural light.

Other things that may also be checked include:

  • the whites of your baby's eyes
  • your baby's gums
  • the colour of your baby'surine or poo

Bilirubin test

If it's thought your baby has jaundice, the level ofbilirubin in their blood will need to be tested. This can be done using:

  • a small device called abilirubinometer, which beams light on to your baby's skin it calculates the level of bilirubin by analysing how the lightreflects off or is absorbed by the skin
  • ablood testof a sample of bloodtaken by pricking your baby's heel with a needle the level of bilirubin in the liquid part of the blood (the serum) is then measured

In most cases,abilirubinometeris used to check for jaundice in babies. Blood tests are usually only necessary if your baby developed jaundice within 24 hours of birth orthe reading is particularly high.

The level of bilirubin detected in your baby's blood is used to decide whether any treatment is necessary.

The blood is analysed to determine:

  • the baby's Blood groups this is to see if it's incompatible with the mother's
  • whether any antibodies (infection-fighting proteins) areattached to the baby's red blood cells
  • the numberof cellsin the baby's blood
  • whether there's any infection
  • whether there's an enzymedeficiency

These tests help determine whether there's another underlying cause for the raised levels of bilirubin.

Antibodies are your body's natural defence against any foreign antigens that enter your blood. An antibody is a protein produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins.
Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Enzymes are proteins that speed-up and control chemical reactions, such as digestion, in the body.
The liver is the largest organ in the body. Its main jobs are to secrete bile (to help digestion), detoxify the blood and change food into energy.
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 24 Nov 2016