(click the picture to enlarge)During pregnancy, the placenta excretes bilirubin. When the baby is born, the baby's liver must take over this function. There are several causes of hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice, including the following:
Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition in which there is too much bilirubin in the blood. When red blood cells break down, a substance called bilirubin is formed. Babies are not easily able to get rid of the bilirubin and it can build up in the blood and other tissues and fluids of the baby's body. This is called hyperbilirubinemia. Because bilirubin has a pigment or coloring, it causes a yellowing of the baby's skin and tissues. This is called jaundice.
Physiologic jaundice - occurs as a "normal" response to the baby's limited ability to excrete bilirubin in the first days of life.
Breast milk jaundice - About 2 percent of breastfed babies develop jaundice after the first week. Some develop breast milk jaundice in the first week due to low calorie intake or dehydration.
Jaundice from hemolysis - Jaundice may occur with the breakdown of red blood cells due to hemolytic disease of the newborn (Rh disease), having too many red blood cells, or bleeding.
Jaundice related to inadequate liver function - Jaundice may be related to inadequate liver function due to infection or other factors.