Most Common Diseases of a Newborn Baby

Having met the newborn for the first time, the new mother may be totally clueless about the finer points of caring for the newborn and feel that it's really difficult. Even if there are minor newborn problems such as a rash on the skin, a sudden burp while drinking milk or gum in the newborn's eyes, the new mother may be bothered. For the newborn to grow up healthily, we must learn more about the newborn problems, particularly health issues and most common diseases, which the newborn may encounter.

Newborn Problems: Physical Issues

Frequent vomiting of milk

This happens when the muscles connecting the esophagus and stomach are not fully developed. When food enters and couldn't go against the flow, the muscles connecting the esophagus and stomach will contract. If these muscles are relaxed, milk vomiting will occur. This may last till when the baby is one year old. So, don't massage or press the baby's stomach after feeding or rock it. Burp the baby first before laying it down.

Lots of gum in the eyes

The newborn's tear ducts are partially obstructed, so its tears can't flow out and is accumulated in the eyes, causing lots of gum. This is known as obstruction of naso-lacrimal duct. Now the mother can gently massage the inner sides of the eyes and corners of the eyes near the nose. There are also instances where conjunctivitis (redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye – the conjunctiva) or an eyelash sticking into the eye causes gum in the eyes. If massaging doesn't help, it's best to consult an ophthalmologist or pediatrician.

Frequent burping

The newborn will start burping when its stomach enlarges after suckling, or catches a chill after a bathe. Burping is the sound caused by diaphragmatic movement while breathing. Burping will generally stop after a few minutes. If the newborn doesn't feel uncomfortable because of the burping, it's all right to just leave it. Drinking a little warm water or milk may help.

Vaginal discharge

Not long after birth, baby girls will have discharges like that of menstrual flow. This is because it's affected by the estrogen hormonal effect when in its mother's womb. This will disappear naturally. However, vaginal discharge may be caused by injuries as well, so it's best to observe carefully.

A snoring sound from the throat

Within two months of birth, many newborns will experience nose blocks even though they don't have flu. Moreover, the newborn's airway is small and narrow and a lot of discharges happen on the mucous membrane. When this happens, breathing will cause a snoring sound. Normally after the first year, the bronchus will harden and this condition will disappear naturally. If breathing difficulty is discovered, pinch the lower part of the nose with a wet towel or prevent the room from being too dry.

Pus from the belly button

After the umbilical cord falls off, if there's pus from the belly button, keep the belly button dry and disinfect it if necessary. Sometimes the adults thought it'll heal by itself so nothing is done. However, inflammation develops. If pus continues to discharge, it's best to visit a doctor.

Difficult bowel movement

Sometimes, the baby will defecate several times on some days and none at all for several days. If the newborn has no problem playing and eating well, there's nothing to worry about. Simply drink a little more water or if drinking milk, add a little sugar in the milk. Do take note: no honey should be added or an enema procedure (introduction of fluid into the rectum to promote evacuation of feces) should be done.

Watery stools

The newborn's intestines are not fully developed, so having watery stools is common. Newborns drinking breast milk are more prone to having watery stools than newborns on a formula milk diet.

Caring tips

There's no need to worry if the baby's stools are a little watery. However, if its diarrhea is severe, it'll be very helpful if the adults thin the formula milk slightly or opt for formula milk that prevents diarrhea. If sticky discharge or blood appears in the stools, bring the baby to a pediatrician.

Greenish stools

Greenish stools are very common among babies. That's because the stools are in the intestines for a very long time. Having greenish stools doesn't mean problems. It may only turn problematic if there's too much water in the stools or defecating happens too frequently.

Often feeling nervous and tremble

The newborn's nervous system isn't fully developed yet, so frequent trembling is quite common. Moreover, it sleeps very lightly and mouth wriggling, eyeballs rotating and body flipping are very common reflexes during the REM period. These are common sleeping patterns and babies with anomalies will not have these reflexes. To reduce the occurrences of these reflexes, reduce noise or avoid stimulating the baby.

Bruising

During childbirth, the baby sustains pressure while being pushed through a narrow birth canal. So tiny blood vessels on its skin may be broken and thus purplish bruising spots are formed. The spots mainly appear on the face and will disappear very quickly. Jaundice may set in after the spots are gone. However, if the jaundice is mild, there's no need to worry too much. Besides, red scars (which will disappear quickly) may also appear due to the equipment used during induced labor.

Red spots between the eyebrows

A red rash may often appear in between the eyebrows, near the eyelashes and on the back of neck. Some people believe that these are marks which the birth stork left. Sometimes, the rash may last for a long time. Rash can also develop inside the hair which cannot be easily discovered.

Protruding red spots on the face

Newborns may also have protruding red spots which resemble spots on strawberries. That's why these are known as strawberry hemangiomas (red to reddish-purple, raised sores on the skin). These don't need any treatment and will go away gradually, fading completely by the age of three. The spots will disappear on the face and all over the body.

Blister-like bumps on the face

Most of these are concentrated below the nose ridge and will disappear after a month or so. The white spots, known as nose bumps, grow unevenly on the face. No special treatment is required. Don't squeeze and pick at them or apply medical ointments recklessly.

Mongolian spots

Mongolian spots are one of the newborn problems and common among Mongolians. Resembling a bruise, they're big, of a near deep blue color and grow near the buttocks. They'll gradually fade. Almost all Asian and Black babies will have Mongolian spots.

Most Common Diseases of a Newborn

Infantile conjunctivitis

Conditions such as infantile conjunctivitis (a common condition that causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye, the conjunctiva) and excess gum are more common than bloodshot eyes in newborns. While passing through the birth canal during natural birth, the newborn may be infected or its tears trickled into the tear ducts in the nasal cavity. This causes yellow-colored gum in the eyes which makes opening its eyes difficult. Occasionally, the newborn's eyes may also be infected by the nitrate in eye lotions and develops conjunctivitis. If the newborn develops symptoms within 6 and 12 hours of birth, it'll recover in one or two days.

Caring tips

If conjunctivitis happens within 48 hours of birth, the possibility of it being a bacterial infection is very high and treatment at the pediatric department is needed. There are occasional cases of bloodshot eyes due to the pressure rupturing eye blood vessels while passing through the birth canal.

Head injuries

An obvious symptom of head injury is when a tumor-like bump appears on the newborn's head. When passing through the narrow birth canal during childbirth, the newborn's head is susceptible to injuries. This is known as head injuries. Symptoms include cranial hematoma (accumulation of blood within the brain or between the brain and the skull) or caput succedaneum (swelling of an infant’s scalp, which appears as a lump or bump on the head shortly after delivery). If the conditions are serious, internal hemorrhage (uncontrollable bleeding) may occur and its symptoms are varied. When there's cranial hematoma, the bone periosteum (a membrane that covers the outer surface of bones) under the skull bleeds and leads to irregular-sized bumps on the head. If its caput succedaneum, there's bleeding under the scalp and the protrusion is bigger than the bumps caused by cranial hematoma. From the exterior, the condition looks like bruising on the scalp, but just more swollen.

Caring tips

Whether it's cranial hematoma or caput succedaneum, these will disappear in about 100 days after childbirth. No matter the size of the swelling, on whichever body part or the nature of injuries, let a pediatrician do a checkup as long as there are head injuries on the newborn. If the swollen bump is very big, blood must be extracted out of it. If the newborn's head has swellings caused by cranial hematoma or caput succedaneum, there will be worries whether these conditions will affect the baby's intellectual abilities or shape of its head. However, don't worry too much about it. Most newborns can completely recover from these conditions without any adverse effects.

Navel hernia

(A painless lump on or near the belly button)

After arriving in the world, the newborn's umbilical cord will drop off – within a week if it's fast or in 10 days if it's slow – and it'll look like a normal belly button. However, if the baby's muscles are weak around the navel area and its belly button cannot completely close up, there will be a hole on the skin below the muscles and its intestines will protrude from the belly button. This is known as navel hernia. The condition usually lasts for between 6 and 12 months. It'll gradually take a turn for the better after that.

Caring tips

The condition will get better as the baby grows up. However, if the hernia is too big, condition doesn't get better after a year and knots of intestines can still be seen from the lesion, it's absolutely necessary to bring the newborn to a specialist.

Infantile erythema venenatum

(Common rash)

This is a common disease in newborns. Its symptoms are very similar to that of a fetal fever. Two or three days after birth, the newborn's back, body and buttocks are covered with little red spots that look like flea bites. The red spots will last for about a week and then disappear naturally. 30-70% of newborns are afflicted with this condition, so it's a very common disease. Reason for its appearance is unknown and it's not accompanied by other symptoms.

Caring tips

The red spots will disappear in due time. The baby's body will be feverish-hot. If the condition worsens, the baby must be kept cool. As its body temperature regulatory system is not yet fully developed and if its clothes or blankets are a little thick, its body temperature will increase immediately. So maintain the room temperature at about 20-22°C.

Congenital biliary atresia

(A blockage in the tracts carrying bile from the liver to the gallbladder)

Biliary tracts start from the liver and connect to a tube in the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). If the bile in the liver cannot pass through the biliary tracts and flows back into the liver to be re-absorbed, this will cause jaundice. Jaundice appears in the whites of the eyes and skin of the newborn. Its urine will turn yellow too. If jaundice is not treated soon, it'll become more severe and dangerous. Send the jaundiced baby to the hospital as soon as possible. If treatment is delayed, there will be digestive problems and the baby's stools will turn white.

Caring tips

If the newborn passes white stools, don't even think of administering treatment at home – go to the hospital and have an operation as soon as possible.

Infantile jaundice

In the newborn's liver, the enzyme which digests the jaundice-causing bilirubin is not enough. Therefore jaundice arises. If the infantile jaundice is caused by bilirubin value lower than 6-8mg/c.c., the condition will disappear within a week without any sequela (a condition occurring as a consequence of another condition). The most obvious symptoms of jaundice are the yellowing of whites of the eyes and body. Upon yellowing of the body and if the bilirubin value is higher than 12-14mg/c.c., immediate phototherapy (light therapy) should be administered. If jaundice is very severe, having the condition from the very first day upon delivery, the condition lasts longer than a week or if the baby's stools becomes white like bean curd residue, send it to the pediatric department to find out its cause of jaundice.

There's also breast milk jaundice which is caused by the newborn drinking breast milk. This condition appears in about one or two days after delivery. Breastfeeding must be stopped for three days for the condition to improve. In order to prevent breast milk retraction, the mother can express her breast milk every two or three hours.

Caring tips

If the baby has jaundice, it's very important to go to a specialist immediately. If the jaundice becomes so serious that it deteriorates into a sickness and spreads to the brain, it could become kernicterus (a bilirubin-induced brain dysfunction) and could induce cerebral palsy.

Thrush

(White, velvety sores in the mouth and on the tongue)

White sores are seen covering the oral cavity and the baby will cry because of the pain. When the sores drop off there will be bleeding. The bacteria in the oral cavity are spread to the intestines which will cause diarrhea. Thrush occurs when too much of a fungus called candida grows in the oral cavity and causes the white-colored sores. Normally, premature babies or babies who are not in the best of health are predisposed to having thrush. For healthy, full-term babies, if their oral cavity isn't kept clean or the nipple of the feeding bottle isn't sterilized properly, the newborn will also get thrush under such unclean conditions.

To find out whether the white stuff in the baby's oral cavity is milk residue or thrush, use soft gauze to gently rub the white stuff. If they disappear upon gentle rubbing, that's milk residue. If they don't go away and even bleed upon gentle rubbing, that's thrush caused by microbes.

Caring tips

First, it's important to send the baby to a pediatric specialist for a proper diagnosis. Is the thrush caused by microbes? Or is it a disease caused by some other bacteria? It's important to know the cause of thrush for the right treatment to be administered.

During daily bathing, the adult should help the newborn do basic upkeep of its teeth. Wet some soft gauze with water and rub it gently against every corner of the oral cavity. Milk bottles and nipples should also be thoroughly sterilized and the mother should also keep her hands clean. For newborns whose weight didn't increase normally and is often sickly and plagued by thrush, go to a specialist for a checkup.

Funisitis

(Inflammation of the umbilical cord)

The newborn's umbilical cord will dry up and drop off after 7 or 10 days after birth. If it's still attached after 10 days, there could be polyps (any growth or mass protruding from a mucous membrane) growing inside or inflammation. If there are polyps growing inside the umbilical cord, it'll ooze pus or discharge. If the condition is serious, the umbilical cord will bleed or there could be another infection due to inflammation: dirt or bacteria may get inside the body and cause frightening conditions such as blood poisoning. However, most cases of funisitis are only inflammation around the umbilical cord and the newborn will completely recover after some treatment.

Caring tips

Adults should look after the newborn's umbilical cord carefully. Before the umbilical cord drops off, care must be taken during bathing to prevent water from getting inside. After bathing, it's best to use disinfectants such as iodine to disinfect it. It's important to continue disinfection for about 10 days after the umbilical cord drops off.

After disinfection, covering the area around the belly button with gauze will lead to inflammation, so don't do that. If the condition is really severe, bring the newborn to the pediatric specialist for an operation and the problem will be easily taken care of.

Hypocalcemia

(Presence of low calcium in the blood)

An imbalance between calcium and phosphoric acid will cause the newborn's skin to turn green, a sight which may be shocking to the adults. If the newborn's skin becomes greenish, breathing difficulty leads to convulsions, and is often alarmed and has trembling limbs, it could be hypocalcemia. If the newborn is on a formula milk diet and there's an imbalance between calcium and phosphoric acid, such symptoms will appear, especially 5 to 10 days after birth. The newborn will be unable to drink its milk properly or will vomit the milk. It'll also feel weak and lethargic all over.

Caring tips

When the newborn has hypocalcemia, feed it with milk powder that's low in phosphoric acid. If the condition isn't treated early, it could lead to malnutrition which will give raise to fatal conditions such a delay in intellectual development. So the newborn with hypocalcemia should be treated by a specialist as soon as possible.

Pyloric stenosis

(Narrowing of the pylorus, the opening from the stomach into the small intestine)

If the newborn vomits as if it's spewing water when drinking milk, the adults have to be wary of this condition. The stomach to the mid-section of the duodenum (first part of small intestine) is known as the pylorus. If problems happen in the pylorus, the condition is known as pyloric stenosis. Generally, baby boys get this more often than baby girls. There's almost no symptom before seven days of birth. Symptoms will only start to appear two to three weeks after birth.

In the beginning, when the newborn is suckling or drinking formula milk, it'll suddenly vomit a little. As the condition worsens and if the wall of the pylorus becomes very narrow, the newborn will vomit as if it's spewing water when drinking milk or suckling. Occasionally, there will be a little blood in the vomit. If vomiting continues and the baby is unable to eat, there will be malnutrition and the baby will be weak all over and dehydrated. If the condition persists, the baby's growth and development will be impeded and it's unable to gain weight.

Caring tips

If the baby always vomits while suckling or drinking milk and there's wriggling in its abdomen, bring it to a specialist for a checkup. An operation will get rid of the condition immediately.

Congenital giant colon

If the newborn experiences constipation and often curls up at the stomach and cry, it could possibly be pain due to a congenital giant colon. The rectum above the anus that is the parasympathetic nerve system (the part of the involuntary nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate, increase intestinal and glandular activity, and relax the sphincter muscles) in the colon has the function of regulating gastrointestinal movement. However, if the parasympathetic nerve system is missing in part of the colon or rectum and gastrointestinal movement is abnormal, the food and feces digested in the stomach and intestines will not be able to push itself down to the anus.

Congenital giant colon is the condition which the parasympathetic nerve system is missing from a part of the colon and feces is unable to reach the anus. After suckling or drinking milk, the newborn is unable to defecate or there's very little defecation and its stomach becomes bloated. If the newborn continues to suckle or drink milk without being able to defecate and its stomach continues to be bloated, the adults have to suspect that the baby has a congenital giant colon.

Caring tips

Having a congenital giant colon is different from having regular constipation. The problem doesn't lie with its diet, water replenishment or the environment – it lies with the intestines. By only replenishing water or giving the newborn proper nutrition doesn't get the baby to feel better at all. In this case, an operation has to be done to remove the part of the intestine without parasympathetic nerve system and connect it with the part that has parasympathetic nerve system. When the newborn experiences painful constipation and feeding is increased to improve fluid intake, it'll only cause its body to be filled with food. The baby will thus feel even more uncomfortable.

Above mentioned are most common diseases and problems of a newborn that may arise after birth. If any of those mentioned are observed, remember to take proper action.


Stephanie
 

Editor in Babiology, mother of two, highly passionate about sharing the pregnancy care and post delivery care learning with the readers.

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