Antenatal jaundice instruction and acute bilirubin encephalopathy in Nigeria

Richard P. Wennberg, Zainab O. Imam, David D. Shwe, Laila Hassan, Zubaida L. Farouk, Lindsey E. Turner, Ann M. Brearley, Tina M. Slusher, Stephen Oguche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Acute Bilirubin Encephalopathy (ABE) is common in Nigeria. Parents’ inability to recognize jaundice and delays in seeking care are significant barriers to its prevention. Methods: We compared associations of (1) interactive antenatal maternal jaundice instruction with postnatal reinforcement, (2) standard postnatal instruction, and (3) no maternal instruction with the incidence of ABE among 647 jaundice admissions stratified for risk factors identified in initial descriptive analysis. Results: Eighty-three (83/647;12.8%) admissions developed ABE including eleven jaundice-related deaths. ABE was present at admission in 20/22 (90.9%) if mothers received no jaundice instruction and no antenatal care, 42/182 (23.1%) if received antenatal care but no instruction, 16/95 (16.8%) if received postnatal instruction only, and 4/337 (1.2%) if mothers received both antenatal and postnatal instruction (p <.001). ABE was highly associated with out-of-hospital delivery, number of antenatal clinic visits, and birth attendant, but these risks were mitigated by antenatal/postnatal instruction. Admission rates with bilirubin levels below treatment guidelines (12 mg/dL) were higher following instruction (30.7%) than with no instruction (14.4%). Limiting subjects to those meeting admission criteria increased ABE rates in all groups without altering conclusions. Conclusion: Interactive antenatal instruction with postnatal reinforcement resulted in timely care seeking and a lower incidence of ABE. Impact: Empowering mothers to participate in neonatal jaundice management is critical in low-income countries where jaundice monitoring and follow up are unreliable. Instructing mothers about jaundice in antenatal clinics with postnatal reinforcement is more effective than standard postpartum instruction in facilitating jaundice detection, timely care seeking, and lowering the incidence of acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE). Antenatal training also mitigates risks for ABE associated with out-of-hospital deliveries, limited antenatal care, and unskilled birth attendants. Impact: Adding structured jaundice instruction in antenatal clinics could greatly reduce bilirubin induced brain injury in countries where ABE is common.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1301-1307
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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