Understanding stool colors key to newborns' health - Albuquerque Journal

Understanding stool colors key to newborns’ health

Q: I have a newborn baby and the nurses asked me to look out for changes in the stool color? Why is that?

A: Yes, your discharging nurse was correct in giving you that advice.

Stool color is an important marker for various conditions, so we need to be aware of the changes and what they mean. This is true not only for babies, but also children and adults.

The obvious one, which almost everyone would be familiar with, will be the presence of blood in the stool. Blood in the stool, as you can guess, is always abnormal. Hence the key is to know why there is blood? What is the source of the blood? Blood in the stool is often mistaken for many food agents that we consume; more so in younger children. A child who consumes pink or red colored drinks may have a “blood-” or “red-“colored stool. Similar appearance can happen when you consume beetroot. Certain antibiotics can rarely do the same. But, it would be important to ensure that it is truly not blood.

The most common reason for blood in a child’s stool is constipation. But, no matter, if there is blood present, it is important to check with your doctor. Other causes of blood include polyps, hemorrhoids, ulcers, inflammation or infection (the latter two are often associated with diarrhea), and malignancy, especially in middle-aged and older individuals. And these are some of the conditions your doctor would be thinking about when you present to them with a history of blood, or possible blood, in the stool. I would also suggest taking pictures of stool that appear abnormal. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Black stools can be caused by certain medications, including iron and bismuth, but it can also denote bleeding in the upper part of the intestines. Please do not ignore black stools. It could be an important marker of an illness that needs urgent attention.

In a baby, we are concerned with the stools becoming lighter or pale. This suggests that bile is not coming through into the intestines. After all, the baby drinks milk and poops mustard-yellow or green, or a combination. This is due to the bile coming down from the liver and meeting the white milk, and helping in absorption of the nutrients followed by coloring the remnants. We worry about less bile reaching the intestines as it denotes some liver disorder or blockage in the tubes that carry the bile into the intestines from the liver where it is made and the gallbladder where it is stored. These conditions often need a quick workup and specific treatments. Delay results in worsening of the liver condition.

Light or pale stools, or clay-colored stools as we often call them, can also be due to an infection with some parasites or hepatitis. Hepatitis is a common term used for any inflammation in the liver and could be due to a virus or drug or other causes. As I mentioned above, this affects the bile going out into the intestines. As the inflammation improves, the pigment comes back.

Dark green stools can result from bile flowing too fast through the intestines, or if the child has diarrhea. This is usually self-limiting in most situations. It may also denote a good intake of green foods or green fluids, as you may see orange poop with a lot of carrots or squash in a baby.

Malabsorption stools can lead to foul-smelling stools that appear pale and fatty, and denote a problem in either the pancreas or intestinal lining.

In today’s vignette, doctors and nurses all over the world are stressing the need of watching the color of a baby’s stool to detect early blockages of the tubes that allow bile to reach the gut. There are many stool color charts available online to help the parent decide if it appears normal or light-colored.

Light-colored stools in a baby demands urgent evaluation with a blood test for the liver. In some countries, new parents are sent home with stool color charts and, if the stool does not match the color in the normal panel, they need to call the doctor.

So should you if you see that happening.

Full marks to your newborn team!

Pankaj Vohra is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist at UNM. Please send your questions to pvohra@salud.unm.edu.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Understanding stool colors key to newborns’ health

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico names ...
ABQnews Seeker
In Smith-Leslie's new role, which began ... In Smith-Leslie's new role, which began Monday, she will oversee BCBSNM's "strategic direction and overall operations for the New Mexico Medicaid division."
Albuquerque Poet Sara Daniele Rivera wins First Book Award
ABQnews Seeker
NEW YORK (AP) -- A Cuban-Peruvian ... NEW YORK (AP) -- A Cuban-Peruvian poet from New Mexico has won the Academy of American Poets' First Book Award. Sara Daniele Rivera will ...
One dead in Northeast apartment complex fire
ABQnews Seeker
One person died in a Northeast ... One person died in a Northeast apartment complex that caught on fire early Tuesday. 
Migrants start fire at Mexico detention center, killing 40
ABQnews Seeker
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing ... MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico, starting a fire that killed at ...
Arriba Birria! 5 birria spots around Albuquerque
ABQnews Seeker
5 places to get your birria ... 5 places to get your birria fix
Smashing Pumpkins to play Isleta Amphitheater on Aug. 13
ABQnews Seeker
'Today' is the greatest day. The ... 'Today' is the greatest day. The Smashing Pumpkins announced its 26-date tour and there will be a stop at Isleta Amphitheater on Aug. 13. ...
Police look for driver of pickup truck in fatal ...
ABQnews Seeker
Detectives are looking for a pickup ... Detectives are looking for a pickup truck believed to be involved in the homicide of a motorcyclist earlier this month in Northwest Albuquerque.
New Mexico court upholds Native American actor convictions
ABQnews Seeker
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- The ... SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- The New Mexico Court of Appeals has upheld the rape and voyeurism convictions of Native American actor and film ...
David Batista named branch manager with Yellowstone Landscape
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with ... BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with the landscape company for 17 years.