If a newborn baby ever came with an instruction manual, that manual would probably be several thousand pages long. There’s just so much to know and learn about these tiny new humans. In-between checking the hospital bag or putting the finishing touches on a nursery, many moms stop to wonder about the first moments after the baby is born and whether the baby will truly be born healthy. It’s a very common worrying question that often cannot be answered until the baby finally does arrive.
Some parents may have had tests that help to indicate conditions they can expect to see in their newborn, but the great majority of conditions are a surprise and cannot be predicted with any certainty. When the baby is born, they may be visible conditions or hidden conditions whose presence is only revealed through testing or ongoing observation.
While the majority of pregnancies and births are low risk, there are a number of conditions that moms of newborns could encounter that the doctor may or may not have discussed. These conditions vary from totally benign to possibly very serious. Some conditions are temporary, coming and going almost mysteriously and leaving no lasting mark, while others are permanent and may require specialized care. From the relatively common to the incredibly rare, there are 20 conditions that moms might encounter with her newborn baby.
20 Anxious About Anemia
Anemia is a fairly common condition that many newborns experience for many different reasons. Some cases of anemia happen when the baby’s body simply breaks down red blood cells faster than it can make them, according to the Merck Manual.
Other incidences happen when too much of the baby’s blood flows into the placenta, or if twin-to-twin transfusion occurs. Some believe a vitamin K deficiency can also lead to situations where a baby can hemorrhage.
All parents are encouraged to give their newborns a vitamin K injection for this as a preventative measure, but the shot comes with risks of its own. Science is still unclear as to whether the human race is actually born without high levels of vitamin K for a reason we just don't understand yet.
Nonetheless, most babies experience only mild anemia and recover with little to no intervention.
19 Understanding Umbilical Hernias
When Mom sees her newborn cry, she notices that his little belly button sticks way out. This is a classic visual sign of an umbilical hernia, and for most babies a condition that repairs itself on its own without a doctor’s help, according to the Mayo Clinic.
This type of a hernia is thought to be painless in infants and occurs when part of the intestine sticks out through the abdominal muscles into the umbilical opening.
Usually, the opening closes up in the first year or two of life, but rarely it can take longer. If Mom notices the area has swelled or is discolored, she should call the pediatrician.
18 Ichthyosis: More Than Sensitive Skin
If baby’s skin seems exceptionally thin or thick with a dry or scaly texture, she may be developing Ichthyosis, as per the First Skin Foundation.
This very rare condition may not be immediately obvious, but usually develops in baby’s first year of life and is a permanent condition. Ichthyosis most often occurs when parents pass on a specific genetic mutation, although extremely rare spontaneous genetic mutation has been known to occur.
There is no cure for this condition, although many therapies are available to help manage the many difficulties that arise from what is a serious skin disorder.
17 Patent Ductus Arteriosus Leaves The Door Open
The cardiac plumbing of the unborn baby is a lot different from a newborn. The lungs fill for the first time with air, and a whole new circulatory process starts up in the heart.
The ductus arteriosus is a hole that allows the blood to drain away from the lungs, and once the baby is using those lungs, the hole is supposed to begin to close up on its own.
Rarely this hole will remain open, creating a murmur and potentially causing the lungs and heart to pump much harder, according to the AHA. If the hole is small, it is considered harmless. For larger holes, doctors may recommend surgery.
16 Polycythemia Hides In The Blood
Sometimes the opposite of anemia occurs, and a newborn can develop Polycythemia, which is when there are too many blood cells circulating and occurs for a number of different reasons, as per Stanford Children’s Health.
A twin might be on the receiving end of a twin-to-twin transfusion, receive too much placental blood, or have some other underlying condition that is keeping the oxygen saturation chronically low, thereby prompting the body to produce more red blood cells.
Twins, late-born babies or small birth weight babies, and babies born with chromosomal abnormalities are at risk for Polycythemia. Doctors may remove some blood as treatment of Polycythemia.
15 Ask About Tongue Ties
More commonly known as Tongue-Tie, Ankyloglossia is a mild form of a midline defect wherein the tongue is attached by a piece of tissue called the frenulum, according to the Academy Of Otolaryngology.
As the baby grows, this piece of tissue normally thins and thus allows the tongue greater mobility. In some babies Ankyloglossia is pronounced and does not thin, possibly creating serious breastfeeding, speech and dental hygiene difficulties because the tongue is not fully mobile.
Sometimes doctors will correct the problem if it's detected while the baby is still very young. Mothers who consume easily metabolized L-methylfolate during the pregnancy can prevent neural tube defects, as per Dr. Ben Lynch.
Sadly, many women are still told to consume copious amounts of folic acid, but with the majority of the population being unable to covert this type of folate to get to the baby, the baby actually ends up deficient from Mom consuming it.
14 Hello Yellow Jaundice
A not uncommon condition that many newborns develop in the first few days after birth is jaundice. Jaundice becomes visible when there is excess bilirubin in the blood, as per Mama Natural.
Many babies experience mild jaundice that quickly recedes, but some may have a more serious case. Breastfed babies are more likely to develop some jaundice, and it is most commonly due to an immature liver that is not fully up and running until a week or two after birth.
Treating mild jaundice at home is possible, but if the jaundice is severe or lasts longer than two weeks, baby can develop complications, or jaundice could be a sign that a more dangerous underlying problem exists.
13 Moebius Syndrome Muscling In
Moebius Syndrome was first described in the 1880s but remains a very rare disorder that is congenital and affects the nerves and muscles of the face and head, as per Rare Diseases.
It most commonly affects the sixth and seventh facial nerves and can vary widely in severity. The baby may have difficulty or be completely unable to make facial expressions or close his eyes.
There are also abnormalities that sometimes occur, and these can vary widely as well and include malformations of the tongue, jaw, palate, ear, and lower body parts. Many babies with this condition struggle to feed, as they are not able to properly move their mouths.
12 Baby’s Bradycardia Causing Concern
Immediately after birth, some babies experience bradycardia, which is a condition that occurs when the heartbeat drops more than 30 beats per minute and drops below 100 beats per minute, according to Open Anesthesia.
The most common cause for bradycardia is hypoxia—or not enough oxygen in the blood—so usually, the nurse or doctor will first check baby’s airway to ensure baby is not choking.
In the first few moments when the baby is born, there are so many people checking mother and baby and hearing that the baby is experiencing bradycardia is very scary. More often than not the condition is temporary and easily corrected.
11 Benign Neonatal Epilepsy Brings No Warning
Doctors have not clearly defined the causes of benign neonatal epilepsy, utilizing a process of elimination instead to characterize the symptoms in newborns. This form of epilepsy occurs despite a normal brain scan and normal development, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
The seizures don’t seem to last very long—one to two minutes—and go away as quickly as they come on. There is often a family history of this type of seizures and it may be linked to specific genes on two chromosomes. These types of seizures don’t appear to have any lasting effect on a baby or it’s development.
10 Respiratory Distress Syndrome Requires Direct Surveillance
Babies born prematurely are at far greater risk than babies who make it to full term for a variety of potentially dangerous conditions because many of their organs are not fully matured.
Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) most often occurs in babies born between the 28th and 37th weeks and is a result of the lung’s inability to produce enough surfactant to prevent alveolar collapse, according to Cedars-Sinai.
RDS is also associated with patent ductus arteriosus and in rarer cases can also occur in full-term babies. Some babies may require a breathing machine or ventilator and artificial surfactant until the lungs can fully function on their own.
9 Orofacial Clefts And Closing the Opening
Orofacial clefts are more commonly known as cleft lip or cleft palate and are generally divided into either syndromic or non-syndromic.
About 70 percent of or facial cleft cases are non-syndromic which means that there are no other physical changes and they are not associated with what Mom may have been exposed to during pregnancy, as per Brian Schutte and Jeffrey Murray and published by Oxford Academic.
Orofacial clefts occur in about one out of every 1000 births and vary considerably in the severity of the cleft. With reconstructive surgery babies and children can more easily eat and speak and may grow up feeling more confident in their appearance.
8 Reflux Redux
Babies who are born prematurely are more likely to suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) but it is also a common condition in full-term babies, as discussed in Up To Date.
It’s actually a normal condition that is only problematic if GER is so frequent or prolonged that there is esophageal damage or difficulty in providing adequate nutrition to the baby.
In babies, the esophagus is very short and the stomach fills quickly, which can lead to regular regurgitation or ‘spit up.’ GER becomes Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) if complications like poor weight gain arise and GERD is much more rare in infants.
7 Persistent Fetal Circulation Syndrome
A further complication of patent ductus arteriosus, persistent fetal circulation develops when the blood flowing from the heart continues to bypass the lungs.
Because of this phenomenon, scientists have begun to refer to the condition more often as Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), and babies who are born with an infection or having aspirated meconium in the womb are more at risk, according to Science Direct.
Without medical intervention, babies can develop chronic lung disease or be unable to sustain breathing on their own as they hyperventilate to the point of exhaustion. Timely ventilation intervention is successful in helping to prevent long-term lung damage.
6 In The Neighborhood Of Nevus Simplex
A nevus simplex, more commonly referred to as a stork bite is a very common birthmark that many babies are born with. By 18 months of age, most of these types of birthmarks have faded, according to Medline Plus.
These types of birthmarks typically are located somewhere on the face or the back of the neck and more rarely on other parts of the body.
Very rarely a nevus may be located in the sacral area of the back of baby and this is easily confused with the midline lumbosacral skin lesions that are associated with a more serious condition called occult spinal dysraphism, according to a study reported by JAMA Dermatology.
5 Septal Defect Leaves A Hole In Her Heart
Septal defects can occur either between the ventral or atrial chambers and can cause the oxygen rich and oxygen poor blood to mix within the heart, as per the UCSF Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Department.
Unlike patent ductal arteriosus, a septal defect doesn’t bypass the lungs, but can instead result in oxygen rich blood being pumped to the lungs. This type of heart defect is present at birth and if detected doctors will try to determine the size of the hole.
Small septal defects often close on their own over time but medium to large septal defects need to be surgically repaired or they may cause growth- or heart failure.
4 Down Syndrome’s Delicate Differences
A partial or full copy of chromosome 21 results in Down Syndrome. Because physiological markers commonly associated with Down Syndrome can vary, doctors will often order a karyotype test to confirm a diagnosis if they suspect the condition is present, as per an article published by BMJ Journals.
Some of the characteristics associated with Down Syndrome include low set ears, almond shaped eyes, and a large gap between the first and second toes.
Mothers who are considered at risk due to age or other factors may be tested during pregnancy, but results are not guaranteed and often Down Syndrome is not detected in any test or scan until after the baby is born.
3 The Mysterious Cries Of Colic
A mother’s response to her baby’s cries is instinctual so prolonged and frequent crying associated with colic can be extremely stressful.
Colic generally sets in a couple of weeks after birth and can last until the third or fourth month, according to Medical News Today, and no definitive cause has been established by experts.
It is possible that because baby’s gut may still be immature, she may be more sensitive to substances in milk and many babies who suffer from colic appear to have excess gas and abdominal discomfort. Babies may respond well to simethicone or lactase drops.
2 Spina Bifida Suspicions
Vitamin B 9 is the key when it comes to whether a fetus will develop some form of spina bifida, which is when part of the spinal cord is exposed, according to the Centers For Disease Control.
Mothers who do not get enough vitamin B 9 are at risk for giving birth to a baby with spina bifida, as well as mothers who have a variant form of the MTHFR enzyme—which fails to adequately metabolize the synthetic form of the vitamin known as folic acid— as per an article published by the US National Library Of Medicine.
Moms can reduce the chances of their baby developing spina bifida by consuming L-methylfolate which does not require conversion by the body.
1 IUGR Baby Thriving
Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) results in a baby growing at a slower than normal weight which causes her to be born at a lower birth weight.
Reasons for IUGR include a placenta that is not functioning normally to provide the necessary nutrients to the fetus, very advanced diabetes, anemia, or substance abuse. IUGR babies may experience greater stress during a vaginal delivery and may be more prone to infection, as detailed by WebMD.
By keeping all her prenatal appointments and doing her best to follow a healthy lifestyle, Mom is less likely to have an IUGR baby and to be able to help an IUGR baby thrive.
References: Merck Manual, Mayo Clinic, First Skin Foundation, AHA, Stanford Children’s Health, Academy Of Otolaryngology, Dr. Ben Lynch, Mama Natural, Rare Diseases, Open Anesthesia, Epilepsy Foundation, Cedars-Sinai, Oxford Academic, Up To Date, Science Direct, Medline Plus, JAMA Dermatology, UCSF Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Department, BMJ Journals, Medical News Today, Centers For Disease Control, US National Library Of Medicine, WebMD