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Is Cold Water Responsible For Jaundice In Babies During Pregnancy?

By Juliet Buna

Claim: A TikTok user recently asserted that consuming cold water during pregnancy does not lead to jaundice in babies.

Verdict: TRUE! Studies and experts reveal cold water consumption during pregnancy does not induce jaundice in babies; instead, jaundice is caused by a yellow substance (pigment) known as bilirubin.

Full Text

Navigating pregnancy can be a daunting journey filled with uncertainties, especially for first-time mothers. The abundance of information available to expectant mothers, aimed at helping them understand the changes in their bodies and prepare for their new roles, can often be overwhelming.

With the internet serving as a primary source of information, pregnant women frequently turn to online platforms for guidance.

Recently, a TikTok user shared a video with the assertion that consuming cold water during pregnancy cannot cause jaundice in a baby, contrary to popular belief. In the video, the man who spoke in Pidgin said, “Na pregnant women na hin send me come today. Na one pregnant woman tell me to say, doctor, dem say make I no drink cold water because if I drink cold water as I get belle e go make my pikin’ get jaundice.”

He further explained that cold water doesn’t cause jaundice, so it is wrong if anyone is told not to drink it because of the risk of jaundice.

“Cold water no dey cause jaundice,” he clearly stated.

According to the TikTok user, women often experience increased body temperature internally during pregnancy, leading to a desire for something cold to help them feel cooler and more comfortable.

As of March 14, 2024, the post had over 1,000 comments, 26,000 likes and 949 shares. The post has elicited controversy, especially on what is to be taken or to be taken by pregnant women.

In the comment section, Grace wrote, “Even the woman selling pure water on my street, she’ll not want to sell cold one to me. she’ll say you were just born. I change am for am yesterday.😒”

Another user @8122856831682 wrote, “Nawa, knowledge is power. My husband and my mom don’t allow me to take cold water because it is not good because I am pregnant; thank u doc.”

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Considering the virality of the post and its implications on public health, DUBAWA sought to verify.

Verification

Many pregnant women, according to a survey by Neonatal Jaundice, have misconceptions about the causes of Neonatal jaundice.

Before addressing the purported link between cold water intake and jaundice in babies, it’s crucial to understand what jaundice is and what causes it.

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital defined jaundice as a very common condition in newborn babies. It usually appears in the first few days or weeks of life. Any disease or concerning problem does not cause most cases of jaundice and clears up quickly without any treatment.

Jaundice is caused by a yellow substance (pigment) called bilirubin. The liver, spleen and bone marrow make bilirubin out of red blood cells that have broken down. The liver then passes bilirubin out of the body through bile, which flows into the stool. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin cannot be removed from the body fast enough, and levels in the blood become too high. The buildup of bilirubin causes the skin and the white part of the eyes to appear yellow.

News reports by The Punch Newspaper and the National Library of Medicine indicate that drinking cold water during pregnancy cannot make the unborn child have any congenital disease.

Water is one of the essentials of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting enough water daily is important for your health. Drinking water can prevent dehydration. Water has no calories, so it can help manage body weight and reduce calorie intake when substituted for drinks with calories, such as sweet tea or regular soda.

Pregnant women also take water, and cold water is not excluded.

Experts Speak

An Ex-Chief Matron at Ofure Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Ms Florence Omolade, said using cold water during pregnancy can help pregnant women cool off without posing any risk to the baby.

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She explained that anything a pregnant woman ingests undergoes temperature changes in the stomach, ultimately reaching the body’s natural temperature, which does not harm the baby.

“I will say no, but you know all the superstition beliefs they will tell you don’t take an egg, don’t take a snail, your baby will be dripping saliva. Anything you take through your mouth when it gets to your stomach changes the temperature of the human body. It doesn’t affect your baby; even though you take cold or hot water, the temperature changes automatically when it reaches your stomach.”

She further explained the cause of jaundice in babies, attributing it to a buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream and tissues. Bilirubin, a yellow-coloured substance produced while replacing old red blood cells, accumulates in the baby’s blood due to the liver’s temporary inability to process it efficiently.

Ms Omolade clarified that jaundice is common in newborns, especially premature babies, as their livers function fully. “What causes jaundice in babies is a build-up of a bilirubin chemical in the baby’s blood and tissues. Bilirubin is a yellow-coloured substance the body creates while replacing old red blood cells.”

Former Chief Medical Director of Mother and Child Hospital in Ondo State and a consultant neonatologist, Banke Oluwafemi, also confirmed that drinking cold water during pregnancy does not cause jaundice in babies.

Dr Oluwafemi clarified that jaundice in newborns can be caused by various factors unrelated to the temperature of the water consumed by the mother. She explained that certain blood group incompatibilities between the mother and the baby, such as ABO incompatibility or Rh factor differences, can lead to jaundice.

Dr Oluwafemi elaborated that while the placenta can help mitigate the effects of hemolysis during pregnancy, jaundice may become apparent shortly after birth when the baby’s liver is not yet mature enough to clear bilirubin at the same rate it is being produced.

She says, “The pregnant mother taking cold water does not give the baby jaundice. There are other things that give the baby jaundice. Like, if the mother’s blood group and the baby’s blood group are antagonising each other, for example, if the mother has an O+ blood group and the baby is A or B (jaundice) can happen. It’s called ABO incompatibility.

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“If the mother has rhesus negative (Rh-) blood group and the baby she’s carrying is positive, especially if she has had an abortion before and she did not take the injection ‘Rhogam,’ then that will sensitise the mother and the mother will develop some antibodies against subsequent pregnancies and children. So, that antibody is made of the immunoglobulin G, which can also cross the placental barrier. So when the mother is pregnant another time and the antibody (IgG) crosses the placental barrier to get to the baby, the baby can start lysing itself from in utero. But because the placenta is also there to mop up the by-product, the baby doesn’t come out with jaundice like that.

“But immediately the baby is born, the baby can begin to develop jaundice because the liver is not yet mature enough to clear jaundice at the rate it is produced from hemolysis or red blood cell break down, which the mother’s antibody has been causing the baby from the womb.”

Conclusion

Studies and experts noted that consuming cold water during pregnancy does not lead to jaundice in babies, as the mother’s body temperature regulates the water upon reaching the stomach.

 

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2024 Kwame KariKari Fellowship, in partnership with Crest 91.1FM, Ibadan and News Verifier Africa, to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.



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