Jaundice of the newborn is frequently seen in newborn infants within the first five days of life. It usually clears within the first two weeks and is due to the incomplete development of a chemical pathway within liver cells, which results in a decreased ability to bind bilirubin (one of the breakdown products of blood cells) with a particular acid. Normally, once this binding has taken place, the waste products are passed into the gall bladder and expelled into the bile, which gives the stool its normal brown colour. If this process does not take place, the amount of bilirubin rises and flows back into the bloodstream, is deposited around the system and causes the yellow discolouration of the skin.

The condition is usually mild and self-limiting without any unpleasant symptoms for the infant but occasionally the problem can persist. Premature infants may be more prone to a longer-lasting, more severe deposition of bilirubin, which can lead to a condition known as kernicterus. This condition is one of severe neurological deficit or even death, caused by degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain due to irritation by the bilirubin.

Another serious condition that causes jaundice in the newborn is erythroblastosis fetalis. This occurs when the blood of the infant contains an antibody from its mother that attacks the infant’s own red blood cells.

A jaundiced infant is usually spotted before he/she leaves hospital. For those who develop it after they arrive home or after home deliveries, it is imperative that a paediatrician is advised of the situation.

Treatment is unnecessary unless the condition is serious, in which case an experienced medically-trained homeopath should be consulted.

A child who is born yellow or jaundiced may have been suffering with blood incompatibility. The paediatrician at the hospital will diagnose this through a blood test. Treatment is rarely necessary but the child will be kept in hospital and a blood transfusion may be required.

Ensure a full discussion with the paediatrician before a subsequent pregnancy is undertaken.

The infant should be given the homeopathic remedies Lycopodium 30 and Ferrum metallicum 30 in fluid form alternately every 3hr through the initial illness and twice a day for two weeks after a recovery is made.

A healer may help speed up the process of a return to normality.

ABO and Rhesus blood incompatibility

A child may be born jaundiced and the parents may be told that the child and mother have incompatible blood types. This is caused by two conditions known as ABO and Rhesus incompatibility and is triggered when the baby’s blood cells are different from those of its mother’s womb and some of the baby’s blood cells escape through the placenta into the mother’s bloodstream. The mother’s defence mechanism recognizes this as a foreign body and forms antibodies against it. These pass back through the placenta and attack the baby’s blood cells. Interestingly, the effect is not a big problem in the first child but any subsequent baby with a blood group foreign to its mother will find that it enters the womb of an individual whose immune system is primed to attack its red blood cells. This is why it is important to know the blood group of a mother.

Most people know about the blood groups A, B and O. Making a complicated situation simpler, if you are blood group A you will have antibodies to blood group B, and vice versa. If you are blood group O you are said to be a universal donor, meaning that you can give your blood to anyone. Group O does have antibodies to both A and B but the amount given to someone in a transfusion is minimal. There is another group, AB. People who are blood group AB are universal recipients because they have no antibodies to either group A or group B.

To make it even more complicated, there is another major red blood cell protein known as Rhesus factor. You either have this (Rhesus positive) or you do not (Rhesus negative). If a baby has Rhesus factor but the mother does not, the mother will form antibodies against this blood cell protein and, as I have mentioned above, will attack it. Rhesus incompatibility is a more common finding and is treated by giving the mother a large injection of Rhesus protein after the infant has been born. The mother’s antibodies attack the protein and effectively get ‘mopped up’. This injection, known as anti-serum D, may be given prior to or early on in subsequent pregnancies in an attempt to protect the unborn infant. It is generally a successful technique, although problems may arise. • Please discuss the matter of anti-serum D with your midwives and paediatrician. There is some concern that the manufacturing process does not guarantee injections free of infections such as the ‘mad cow disease’ organism, HIV or hepatitis. This association has only recently been considered but may become more prominent in the near future.