Neonatal physiologic jaundice results from simultaneous occurrence of the following two phenomena : • Bilirubin production is elevated because of increased breakdown of fetal erythrocytes. This is the result of the shortened lifespan of fetal erythrocytes and the higher erythrocyte mass in neonates.Of young infants referred with main complaint of jaundice, 64.2% were up to 6 days old, followed by 34.3% aged 7–28 days. Gender distribution was 52.1% male children and 47.9% female children. Low-birthweight (<2.5 kg) was found in 31% of babies with jaundice.
A total of 1690 live births were recorded during the study period of September 2004 to July 2006. Of these, 466 young infants (27.6%) were referred by CHWs to our centre with a primary complaint of jaundice; other causes for referral included presumed sepsis, umbilical infection and skin infection. Of children referred with jaundice, 75.3% (n = 351) were delivered at home; the mothers of only 11.2% received antenatal care. Only 23.8% of children were exclusively breast-fed, the rest were fed breast milk and a variety of other home-made fluids.