Holding their child for the first time can be one of the most joyous moments for parents. However, at this point, the baby is at its most vulnerable. Parents are often overwhelmed and don’t feel equipped enough to deal with the needs of their newborn baby.
Newborns are very delicate, and their bodies are still under development. Their immune system has also not yet completely developed, and they are therefore at risk of developing infections. Here are some conditions that may affect a newborn that you should be aware of:
1. Neonatal Jaundice:
Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and the sclera of the eye. Jaundice in newborns is very common, occurs after 24 hours of birth, and usually goes away on its own. This is known as physiological jaundice and occurs due to high bilirubin in the blood, as the liver of a newborn is usually immature.
However, if jaundice occurs after 24 hours, it may indicate an underlying pathology such as sepsis, blood group incompatibility, polycythemia, or enzyme deficiencies such as Gilbert’s syndrome or Criggler-Najar Syndrome.
2. Birth Injuries:
A difficult or prolonged labor may result in birth injuries. This occurs due to pressure on the fetus as it moves through the birth canal naturally during the delivery. Damage to the brachial plexus, which is the major set of nerves supplying the arm and hand muscles, could result in Erb’s palsy. Damage to bones resulting in a fracture is also common, especially a fracture of the clavicle which often goes unnoticed until a soft tissue clump forms around the bone. Fractures of the humerus and femur may also occur.
3. Respiratory Distress:
Respiratory distress in an infant may present as cyanosis, nasal flaring, high respiratory rate, wheezing, and visible chest wall retractions. Respiratory distress in newborns happens when a baby’s lungs are not fully developed enough and cannot provide enough oxygen to the blood, causing breathing difficulties.
There are multiple causes for this, the most common of which is premature deliveries, low birth weight, or gestational diabetes mellitus in the mother.
4. Bluish skin:
The medical term for bluish skin is cyanosis, which is most easily seen on thin skin, such as on the lips, mouth, earlobes, and fingernails. This indicates low oxygen in the blood. It usually goes away on its own. It could also indicate congenital cardiac conditions such as Tetrology of Fallot or atrial or ventricular septal defects. It could also be due to Methemoglobinemia which is due to reduced blood hemoglobin. Infants under the age of three months are at the highest risk of this condition.
Our body temperature is maintained at a constant state by the hypothalamus. If there is a fever, it indicates presence of infection or any other cause of inflammation.
However, in a newborn, the temperature regulatory system is quite immature. Which means that in a newborn fever could occur without the presence of infection or illness. But if the fever persists for a long time, it could be due to decreased hydration and low fluid intake. Fever could also indicate overheating, due to excessively draping the child. The temperature can rise quickly and cause fits or result in a heat stroke and eventually death.
6. Low Hemoglobin:
Anemia is a condition where the baby’s body has an insufficient red blood cell count. It presents as pale skin, high heart and respiratory rates, and poor feeding. It could be due to a number of causes such as rapid body growth or the short lifespan of the red blood cells. It could also be due to obstetric causes such as placenta previa or abruption. If your baby is very pale, it is wise to go get it checked. The doctors might run some blood tests to identify the underlying cause, and a transfusion may be necessary.
7. Otitis Media:
Ear infections are quite common in neonates and young children, especially in those between the ages of 6 and 18 months. Parents may be worried that an ear infection (otitis media) might affect their child’s hearing. However, that is usually not the case.
A child that has an ear infection may constantly tug at their ear, have difficulty sleeping or it may present with fever. Mostly, a wait-and-watch approach is followed. However, if it gets more serious, the doctor may prescribe antibiotic eardrops and drops for pain relief.
Colic includes a baby crying excessively without any apparent reason. It is most common during the first six weeks of life and usually fades away by age 3 to 4 months. It may affect up to 1 in 4 newborn babies. There are many theories about what may be the reason for this. It could be due to the child being lactose intolerant or having an allergy to milk protein. Some people also assume that it is due to gas.
Diarrhea is also common among babies. It usually occurs as a result of an upset gastrointestinal system and you need not worry about it very much. Continue breastfeeding, ensure that the baby is kept hydrated and start giving an ORS solution which may also be prepared at home.
Constipation in infants is very common but can worry parents. Most of the time, the baby is not really constipated. They just may not have developed a routine for pooping. It could be due to changes in milk from breastfeeding or shifting to formula milk.
However, in very rare cases, it indicates a condition in which the gut lacks innervations known as Hirchsprung disease. If constipation is chronic, it may be wise to visit a pediatrician.
Newborns are very vulnerable just after birth. At this stage, parents are also quite conscious. It is very normal for a parent to be vigilant as they may encounter many new situations. However, it is important that you take the symptoms seriously. If the symptoms persist, visit a doctor. it is important that as a parent to a newborn, you are well informed about the health conditions that may affect a baby and stay on schedule with the vaccines.