When to consult with a birth injury attorney about your baby’s jaundice
Parents of newborns often feel anxiety and worry along with their excitement and joy in welcoming a baby into their families. From minor concerns, such as whether they have enough diapers, blankets and other supplies, to questioning their own capabilities to be good parents, it’s not uncommon for mothers and fathers of infants to experience stress. This is normal.
But if a severe injury or serious problem occurs during childbirth, it often causes stress levels to rise even further, especially if a parent doesn’t know where to seek support in a specific set of circumstances.
Unless a parent has a medical background that includes a formal study of obstetrics or newborn child development, he or she likely isn’t able to fully understand everything a medical team is doing or saying when it comes to monitoring a newborn’s health condition.
For instance, many parents don’t know that APGAR is an acronym that stands for: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. A labor and delivery team begins postpartum care by rating a newborn’s APGAR score, which can help identify signs of distress.
If your child suffered infant jaundice or kernicterus during labor or delivery and you have questions, don’t hesitate to seek answers by talking to experienced birth injury lawyer Laura Brown.
What causes newborn jaundice levels to be unhealthy?
To better understand potentially dangerous birth injuries such as neonatal jaundice, it’s helpful for parents of newborns to learn about bilirubin.
Bilirubin is a chemical compound that plays a key role in processing red blood cells in the liver and ridding the body of waste. Bilirubin occurs naturally and is needed for a body to function properly. An infant may be at risk, however, if his or her bilirubin levels get too high, which results in a condition known as “jaundice.”
Jaundice is an excess of bilirubin in an infant’s bloodstream. A properly trained medical team should know what to do to treat the baby for jaundice and should instruct parents accordingly. In a postpartum care unit, an infant should be checked for signs of jaundice approximately every 8 to 12 hours. Parents should continue to monitor their baby’s condition upon returning home because jaundice can occur days later.
There are several known causes for an excess buildup of bilirubin in an infant’s bloodstream. Babies who are born before 38 weeks gestation are at higher risk for this condition. Sepsis (infection in the blood) is another possible cause of jaundice. Enzyme deficiency, liver malfunction or incompatibility between a mother’s blood and her baby’s blood are also underlying conditions that may result in high levels of bilirubin.
What are the signs of jaundice in babies?
Infant delivery teams should be specially trained to closely monitor the condition of a newborn infant and mother. A low APGAR score can alert nurses or doctors to potential problems. The “A” in APGAR refers to an infant’s appearance.
The most common symptom of jaundice in an infant is a yellowish skin tone. This symptom may also appear in the whites of an infant’s eyes. To check for discoloration, a parent or medical team member can gently press on a baby’s forehead or nose. A healthy child’s skin tone will turn lighter than its normal color for a few seconds. If, however, the skin is pressed and looks yellow, it suggests that the child may have jaundice.
In addition to a yellowish skin tone, other symptoms of infant jaundice include discoloration of the abdomen, difficulty rousing an infant from sleep, failure to thrive regarding feeding and gaining weight, and high-pitched crying.
How doctors diagnose and treat infant jaundice
A postpartum care doctor should know how to physically examine an infant, as well as what tests to run—including lab tests or a skin test using a transcutaneous bilirubinometer—to measure an infant’s bilirubin level. Mild cases of jaundice often resolve on their own within a few weeks.
Enhanced nutrition, light therapy (using a special lamp that changes the molecular structure of bilirubin to help excrete it from the body), intravenous immunoglobulin transfusion or blood transfusion are common treatments for neonatal jaundice.
Lack of treatment or failed response to treatment may result in kernicterus
Bilirubin has a specific function in the liver. However, it’s toxic to the brain. If a baby has jaundice, excess levels of bilirubin may pass to the brain, which can cause “kernicterus”—a term that refers to a spectrum of conditions associated with brain damage.
Symptoms of kernicterus include inconsolable, high-pitched crying, bulging of a baby’s fontanelle (soft spot on top of the head), erratic eye movements and seizures. These and other symptoms would alert a postpartum medical team to possible kernicterus, resulting from untreated jaundice.
Medical negligence is often a direct cause of kernicterus
If a licensed medical team fails to take appropriate action to monitor an infant’s health or to perform proper examinations, tests and treatment if a child exhibits symptoms of jaundice, it places the child at risk for severe brain injury.
If left untreated, kernicterus may lead to coma or infant fatality. Babies who survive kernicterus often require specialized care, such as cochlear implants for hearing loss, speech therapy, orthopedic devices and daily life function support.
When an infant suffers a birth injury due to medical negligence, parents may encounter severe financial obstacles like high medical bills, lost wages from time off work to care for their child or any number of other issues. In such cases, a parent may decide to act on their child’s behalf to seek restitution against those who are responsible for damages.
The first step to take in seeking financial compensation from a negligent doctor or medical team is to discuss your case with an experienced birth injury attorney who is well-versed in all aspects of medical negligence law and can provide support throughout your case.
Contact Laura Brown today for your free consultation.
- Baby’s Skull Not Fused at Birth
- Birth Injury from Premature Delivery
- Brachial Plexus Nerves & Erb’s Palsy
- Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cesarean Section & Birth Injury
- Developmental Delays
- Facial Paralysis
- Fetal Intolerance to Labor
- Medication Side Effects
- Jaundice (Kernicterus)
- Medical Errors