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Ever since Zofran has been prescribed to pregnant women, there have been ongoing reports of infants being born with birth defects. Although there are numerous reasons why a baby may develop jaundice, it’s been linked to pregnant women taking Zofran, a medication only approved for use by cancer patients undergoing treatments that result in nausea and vomiting.

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is defined as a yellow coloration of the skin and the white parts of a baby’s eyes (the sclerae) that results due to an excessive amount of bilirubin in the system. It typically appears right after birth or within the first five days after birth.
baby with jaundice
In the majority of instances, jaundice is minor and will clear up quickly, but it should always be taken as a serious condition as it can lead to serious complications if not treated, such as brain damage.

Jaundice occurs when the infant has too much bilirubin that he/she cannot get rid of properly. Bilirubin is a yellow-colored substance that accumulates when the body breaks down red blood cells. Pregnant women get rid of old red blood cells from the infant via the placenta, but once born, the baby gets rid of bilirubin on his/her own.

Jaundice Symptoms and Signs

Yellow skin and yellowing of the sclerae are the primary symptoms of jaundice. In most cases, physicians will examine a baby before jaundice before they are released from the hospital after birth. If only mild jaundice is diagnosed, doctors can usually clear it up before discharge.

In some instances, however, jaundice can be severe. The following signs and symptoms occur when jaundice is more serious than the usual mild cases:

  • The infant’s skin continues to turn more yellow
  • The infant appears ill and fatigued
  • The infant has high-pitched crying
  • The whites of the infant’s eyes remain yellow or become more yellow
  • Poor weight gain and poor feeding
  • The jaundice doesn’t go away within the first few weeks of life

Jaundice Treatment

Treatment for your infant’s jaundice will depend upon how severe the condition is, but the following are the most common methods:

  • Light Therapy: If a physician diagnoses jaundice, the infant may be placed in a light therapy machine, which helps change the structure of the buildup of bilirubin. One the bilirubin’s shape and structure are changed, it is passed through the infant’s body via urine and bowel movement.
  • Exchange Transfusion: An exchange transfusion only takes place in severe cases of jaundice, and consists of withdrawing small amounts of blood, diluting it, then transferring the blood back to the infant.
  • Intravenous Immunoglobulin: An intravenous immunoglobulin procedure consists of transferring immunoglobulin intravenously to an infant in order to decrease the levels of jaundice.  Immunoglobulin is a blood protein that decreases the levels of antibodies in the infant’s body.

Zofran and Jaundice

In normal situations, a liver has the ability to filter out bilirubin from the bloodstream, but in some cases, an infant’s liver may be too underdeveloped, resulted in bilirubin. Additionally, when pregnant women take Zofran, the medication is broken down by the liver, and although the reasons are still unclear, these women run the risk of liver damage if they take the medication.

Maternal liver damage that happens in the first trimester of can lead to infant jaundice, and in some instances, it can lead to severe jaundice.

Other causes of jaundice can include:

  • Blood incompatibility between mother and infant
  • Enzyme deficiencies
  • Infant sepsis
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Infant red blood cells abnormalities
  • Low oxygen levels (known as hypoxia)

A physician is usually able to discern why jaundice happens, although in some rare instances, the cause is unknown. However, if you took Zofran while pregnant, a doctor can typically discern if you experienced liver damage, which in turn caused your infant to have jaundice.

Keep in mind if that if your infant developed jaundice or any other birth defect, and you took Zofran while pregnant, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain, suffering, and more.

For additional information on your legal rights, refer to our article, Zofran Lawyer.