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There’s no Place Like Home: This Baby Blanket Treats Infant Jaundice From the Comforts of Home

This hospital in northern Finland incorporates home treatment for infants with jaundice

Every parent recalls the joy that comes with having a newborn. But it can also be a daunting experience with several questions running through a parent’s head. Is my baby healthy? Did I get everything she needs? Will I bond with my new baby? A long hospital stay can add to that stress.

All of Anna’s* four children were born with jaundice - a liver condition that causes yellowing of a newborn baby's skin and eyes. “We were still in the delivery room with my newborn, when I noticed his skin had a yellow tone,” she says of her youngest. “After a couple days, the bilirubin levels in his blood were so high that phototherapy was necessary.”

Human blood contains bilirubin, a substance formed when red blood cells break down. Normally, the liver filters bilirubin from the bloodstream and releases it into the intestine so it can be passed out safely. However, sometimes, the liver cannot remove bilirubin fast enough and the excess causes jaundice, a condition resulting in a yellow skin tone. Jaundice is common in newborn babies, as they have a high number of red blood cells, which are broken down and replaced frequently. Moreover, a newborn baby's liver is not fully developed, so it's less effective at removing the bilirubin from the blood.

The symptoms of jaundice are usually visible during the first week after birth. Most babies recover from jaundice without needing treatment. However, infants with high bilirubin levels require phototherapy, a treatment that uses a special type of blue light. When exposed to the light, the bilirubin absorbs it, thus decreasing the jaundice levels. The lights help the bilirubin in the blood change, so it can be easily expelled by the body.

Fortunately, Anna delivered at a clinic in Finland that offers home treatment for infants with jaundice to help ease some of the stress parents face. 

In the past, phototherapy treatment was typically only offered at the hospital, increasing the length of stays. Today, phototherapy devices can be taken to the home, allowing families to go home sooner. At the Oulu University Hospital in Finland, GE Healthcare’s BiliSoft phototherapy devices have been available for home use for more than four years.

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“My husband picked up the device and we watched the information video online,” Anna shared. “Our baby was treated for 24 hours but his bilirubin levels did not decrease. After two more days of treatment, the levels began to come down and we no longer needed the device.”

“Families are much happier when they’re able to go home with their baby,” says Terhi Tuomaala, a midwife at the Oulu University Hospital. “Home-based phototherapy helps establish an emotional connection between parents and the baby. The device is small, portable, and best of all, the baby can be held or carried during treatment.”

Tuomaala added, “GE Healthcare’s BiliSoft phototherapy device is easy to use. Instructional videos and a guide book are provided to each family. Once a treatment has been decided, we ask families to review these materials so they are informed about how to use the device.”

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Six months later, Anna’s youngest child is a happy, healthy, and alert infant. Home-based phototherapy enabled his parents to stay close to all four of their children.

 

*Name changed for privacy