After what may seem like an eternity of agony, your delivery was a success and your baby is here. Your obstetrician has said there weren’t any complications in the delivery – noting that you and your baby seem healthy. At least at first glance, but there are many underlying health conditions newborns can have that you might not know about.
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Without comprehensive (and, oftentimes, costly) screening, how can you tell if your newborn is really doing okay? The truth is that it’s not that simple.
In fact, it’s a non-zero possibility for underlying health conditions to go undetected during the delivery. These conditions may manifest themselves differently, depending on your newborn’s health and genetics.
This isn’t meant to scare you, of course. In most cases, newborns that have been cleared by a medical practitioner are healthy and perfectly fine.
Nevertheless, one in every 33 newborn babies are suspected to have a birth defect, and that’s no insignificant figure.
It’s good to be prepared. Parents, look out for the following symptoms in your newborns.
1. Fast Heart Rate
Does your infant have an unusually high heart rate? If your newborn is experiencing this symptom and is born prematurely, there’s a high chance they’re suffering from anaemia.
Anaemia is a condition wherein there’s not enough iron in the blood. Iron is a vital component in the blood as it is needed to make haemoglobin. When there’s a lack of iron, this can lead to a bevy of developmental problems in the future.
Fortunately, anaemia is treatable by providing your infant with iron-rich foods. If you’re still breastfeeding, you can substitute foods for fortified formula or iron supplements. It’s also equally important to watch your child’s milk intake, as more than 24 ounces of milk a day can disrupt their body’s natural ability to absorb iron.
2. Bluish Skin and Rapid Breathing in Newborns
Newborns are prone to developing breathing difficulties soon after they are born. This can range from rapid breathing to slow and laboured breathing.
If your newborn breathes rapidly or irregularly, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye on him/her. A breath count of over 60 a minute is a sign that your infant is breathing rapidly. If this goes on for 20 minutes or longer, medical attention is warranted.
Moreover, if your baby stops breathing for over 20 seconds, that is called apnea and calls for immediate concern. An insufficient amount of oxygen in the body can lead to cyanosis, which is a condition in which the baby’s extremities are coloured blue. Having this condition is often indicative of a congenital heart or respiratory issue.
If you notice your newborn having breathing difficulties, don’t turn your back on your child’s symptoms. Besides the aforementioned conditions, pneumonia, persistent pulmonary hypertension, and chronic lung disease are all different conditions that can affect your newborn’s breathing.
3. Frequent Infections
Does your child seem to be a magnet for infections and colds? If so, you might want to look into it further.
Frequent infections are often a sign of a very common disorder in newborns called sickle cell disease. This is a type of condition in which the haemoglobin takes on a sickle shape as opposed to its usual round shape. This structural difference makes these cells more likely to stick with one another instead of flowing in the bloodstream naturally, causing blockages and pain.
This condition is a genetic one, so if you or someone in the baby’s lineage has it, they’re likely to have it as well. In fact, the rate of a child inheriting sickle cell disease from a carrier is about 1 in 4. Sickle cell disease is also accompanied by symptoms like splenic sequestration, acute chest syndrome, and painful swelling in the toes and fingers.
4. Musty Skin, Breath, and Urine
Does your child’s urine or breath smell musty and odorous? If so, it could be because of an excessive amount of phenylalanine in the body.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a metabolic condition marked by an inability to properly break down phenylalanine, a type of amino acid found in protein-rich foods and artificial sweeteners. This can lead to too much of it accumulating in the body, leading to a slew of unpleasant symptomatic manifestations if left untreated.
Infants with PKU are also likely to have eczema, fairer skin, tremors and sickness episodes. If left untreated, this can lead to long-term, permanent brain damage.
PKU can be identified through a simple blood test done at birth. Fortunately, this condition is treatable by restricting your diet and taking the right amino acid-boosting supplements. Learn more about PKU here.
5. Jaundice in Newborns
Jaundice is a condition marked by the yellowing of the skin and eyes due to an accumulation of bilirubin in the body. An excessive amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream can indicate an immature liver or an underlying condition.
It’s important to mention that jaundice is quite common in newborn babies. In many cases, it’s harmless and will resolve on its own in under two weeks. To check if your infant has jaundice, you can press the skin on their forehead and nose. If there’s mild yellowing in the pressured area, it’s a sign that they have jaundice. Normal skin would have a lighter colour.
Jaundice is fairly prevalent and many hospitals have procedures in place to identify it in newborns. While mild cases of jaundice can go away on their own, more severe cases need to be treated.
If your baby is displaying any of the following symptoms of jaundice, such as an abnormally high-pitched cry, little progress in weight gain, yellow colouring to their skin tone, and lethargy, then it’s time to seek medical attention.
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