Newborn jaundice can be safely and effectively treated at home, study finds
A new study from Westmead Hospital has found newborn babies with jaundice can be safely and effectively treated at home. The study, which involved over 4300 mother and baby pairs, found that the midwifery-at-home model of care was both safe and cost-effective for jaundice care.
Jaundice is a common condition among newborns, characterised by the yellowing of the skin and eyes due to elevated bilirubin levels. While mild jaundice often resolves on its own, high levels of bilirubin can lead to severe complications, including lifelong brain damage.
Traditionally, hospitals have delayed discharge for several days to observe for jaundice. In addition, infants developing significant jaundice at home were almost always readmitted for treatment, resulting in separation from their mothers during the critical early weeks of life.
However, the study found that it is possible to safely discharge newborns with jaundice from the hospital early, as long as they are monitored closely by midwives at home. The midwives provide jaundice surveillance and treatment, which may include phototherapy, a light therapy that helps to reduce bilirubin levels.
The study found that no baby in the study suffered any jaundice harm, and most babies needing phototherapy were able to have it at home. Further, the researchers found the midwifery-at-home model of care was highly cost-effective, saving the hospital approximately two million dollars per year.
The findings of this study have the potential to revolutionise the way jaundice is treated in newborns. By allowing babies to remain at home with their mothers, the midwifery-at-home model of care can help to promote successful breastfeeding, bonding, and emotional support. It can also reduce the financial burden on families.
The researchers hope their study will encourage other maternity services to adopt the midwifery-at-home model of care for jaundice treatment. This would benefit countless newborns and their families worldwide.