Jaundice – demystified

Wednesday , 19, October 2011 Leave a comment

One of the best things about my pediatrician is the one on one time he spends with you.  It’s a small practice, him and a nurse practitioner.  The hours could be better.  It could be closer to our house.  But he’s good, and finding new doctors/dentists was my least favorite part about moving across the country.  So here we are.

At my son’s first visit to the office, I was reminded of yet another reason I like to go there.

I’m a total geek.

After our Doc tells us – yeap it’s jaundice – he then turns, faces the paper on the table and starts giving us a lesson on jaundice.  He barely looks up at either of us, but scribbles away on the paper as he talks about jaundice, and why it’s a good idea to keep tabs on it.  In the end we’ve got a paper that looks something like this:

And I’m pretty sure my husband and I have big cheesy grins on our faces.  I have a biology degree (and he’s got chemistry).  Human Physiology is my most favorite subject ever.  I’ve really not gotten to use it since I graduated, since most of my jobs were clerical in nature before I started raising babies.  So if my pediatrician wants to chat away about the workings of the human body, I am very happy about it.

If  you need a basic rundown on jaundice, here are the essentials we got:

While baby is in utero they produce lots of of extra red blood cells (to compete with mama for oxygen).  When baby is born they have all these extra red blood cells they no longer need (since they are now providing oxygen for themselves by – you know – breathing) SO the body starts breaking them down.  One byproduct of this breakdown is bilirubin.  Baby’s liver isn’t all the way mature yet so the bilirubin can build up a bit (instead of being taken care of by the liver in a timely fashion).  The bilirubin goes into the skin which causes the yellow color.  Physiologic jaundice (the yellow skin) isn’t a big deal.  However if the bilirubin levels get too high bilirubin goes to places you don’t want – the brain – and can cause permanent damage. “So – we keep track of it” he told us.

If you kept up with all that and understood how it related to the drawing, kudos to you!

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