How To Prevent A Neonatal Infection

Prevention is the key to avoiding newborn sepsis, an infection that can kill the infant’s life.

Neonatal infection or sepsis is a serious condition that affects newborn babies and that, if not received adequate treatment in time, can cause serious results.

Do you know what we are talking about? Find out in our article why it occurs, how it can be prevented and what its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment are. Do not miss it!

What is a neonatal infection?

Bacteria in the blood: neonatal infection

A neonatal infection, also known as sepsis, is a blood infection that occurs in newborns or infants younger than 90 days. Sepsis can appear during the first week of life (early onset) or between 7 and 90 days of life (late onset). In both cases, sepsis occurs due to:

  • The presence of bacteria, such as E. coli.
  • Certain strains of streptococci (group B – GBS).
  • The herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Early-onset neonatal infection

The condition usually occurs between 24 and 48 hours after the baby is born, since the little one contracted the disease before birth or during delivery. The risk factors that increase the chances of the child suffering from sepsis are:

  1. Premature delivery
  2. Presence of group B streptococci during pregnancy.
  3. Infection of the amniotic fluid and / or the placenta.

Late-onset neonatal infection

In these cases, the infection occurs after delivery, either because the baby has had to stay in the hospital for a long period of time or because a catheter has been placed for a long period.

Prevention of neonatal infection

Mom with baby in her arms

As always, prevention is better than cure . For this reason, we will list below which are the best prevention measures for neonatal infection. Take note.

1. Antibiotic treatment for pregnant women

If the expectant mother suffers from conditions such as chorioamnionitis (an infection of the amniotic fluid and placenta) or group B streptococci, or if she has given birth to a baby who has suffered from sepsis, the mother should be medicated to avoid the early-onset neonatal infection.

In the event that the pregnant woman suffers from any type of infection, including the herpes simplex virus, it is necessary to resort to treatment. In fact, doctors will try to prevent the woman from getting or developing any kind of infection.

2. Asepsis at the place of birth

Cleaning the baby’s birthplace is essential to prevent bacteria from entering the newborn’s body. Remember that babies are very vulnerable during the first months of life.

3. Avoid delay of birth after water break

When the woman breaks the water, the delivery must be immediate. It must happen within 12-24 hours to avoid contamination.

Symptoms of a neonatal infection

newborn crying

In general, preventive measures are essential to avoid the development of neonatal infection. However, it is important to know your symptoms to be alert for any possible alarm:

  1. Yellow skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice).
  2. Reduced movements, including sucking at mealtime.
  3. Seizures
  4. Trouble breathing.
  5. Slow heart rate
  6. Diarrhea and vomiting
  7. Low blood glucose
  8. Temperature increase.

If you notice symptoms of infection in your child when you have returned home from the hospital, it is best to consult a pediatrician. You don’t need to be alarmed, but ruling out infections will be your main task.

Diagnosis and treatment

Baby being listened to

The pediatrician will observe the presence of the symptoms described above and will order laboratory studies, such as those described below:

  • The blood test will usually include a C-reactive protein test, a white blood cell count, and a blood culture.
  • The doctor may want to examine the cerebrospinal fluid, to determine the presence or absence of bacteria. In that case, a lumbar puncture is usually performed.
  • In addition, stool, urine, and skin cultures can be performed .
  • For breathing problems, a chest X-ray is usually advised.

Treatment for infants under one month of age with fever or any other sign of infection includes immediate intravenous antibiotics,  even before a confirmed diagnosis has been made.

If the mother has suffered from any of the infections mentioned above, the baby will receive treatment even when there are no symptoms. In case the infection has been caused by HSV, the most widely used antiviral medicine is acyclovir.

When the test results are normal, the child is allowed to go home, but follow-up visits continue.

Neonatal infection is a serious disease that can kill the baby. For this reason, doctors closely monitor pregnancies, trying to avoid the presence of infections in order to ensure the safety of the mother and the child.

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