Misdiagnosis of Neonatal Jaundice

Nenonatal jaundice is rarely missed in a newborn baby because of its distinctive yellowing of the skin and eyes. It is also a very common condition in newborn babies and your doctor and midwife will be very familiar with it. The main issue with neonatal jaundice is the uncommon situation where there is actually a different cause of the jaundice, such as an underlying liver condition.

Undiagnosed Other Causes: The cause of the baby’s jaundice may be a more serious disorder than neonatal jaundice. Some of the possibilities are:

  • Rhesus Isoimmunisation. This is also called “Rh Blood Incompatibility” and arises in a small number of pregnancies.
  • Viral Hepatitis. The fetus could have caught a form of hepatitis from the mother during the pregnancy. A mother with a known case of acute or chronic hepatitis should increase suspicion of fetal hepatitis. In some cases, the mother may have a chronic subclinical undiagnosed form of HepB or HepC. Rarely, a short-term infection, such as of Hepatitis A (fecal/oral/food contagion), that occurred during the pregnancy might also be a factor.
  • Other Infections. Any infection caught by the fetus while in the uterus.
  • Inherited Liver Defect. There could be an inherited, genetic defect of the liver or its function.
  • Congenital Bile Duct Atresia. Blockages of the bile ducts.
  • Other congenital defects of the liver or the biliary system.

Note that such other causes are uncommon. The normal situation is that your newborn baby just has neonatal jaundice. Speak to your doctor about it.

Orange Skin Coloring: Some parents will find that their older baby, not usually a newborn, but an older infant, has some skin color changes that seem like jaundice. Jaundice is certainly possible in older infants, although it will have a cause other than neonatal jaundice, and will need diagnosis by your doctor. However, another common possibility is that the infant actually has an “orange skin color” (i.e. rather than yellow), which is usually due to carotenemia, caused by too much of an orange-colored food substance in the blood. This can occur with an infant on solid foods that is simply fed too many orange-colored baby foods: carrots, pumpkins, sweet potato (yams), etc., whether from fresh foods or in commercial processed baby food. Fortunately, this disorder is mostly harmless. Read more about: carotenemia.

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