6.2.1  How can you recognise a convulsion in a newborn?

Important! Apnoeia is pronounced ‘app-nee-ah’ and is a very dangerous sign. If you suspect that a newborn has had a convulsion, or you see signs of it during a visit, refer the mother and baby urgently to a higher level health facility.

A convulsion (fit) in a newborn baby may present as:

  • Twitching of part of the body (e.g. a hand), one side of the body, or the whole body (a generalised fit).
  • Extension (spasm) of part of the body (e.g. an arm) or the whole body.
  • Abnormal movements (e.g. mouthing movements, turning the eyes to one side or cycling movements of the legs).
  • Apnoea (long periods without breathing).

It is often very difficult to recognise a convulsion in newborns because they usually do not have a generalised extension of the body and limbs, followed by jerking movements, as seen in convulsions in older children and adults. So it is very important to be alert for any unusual signs, even if they are not very obvious at first.

6.2  Screening the newborn for general danger signs

6.2.2  Is the newborn lethargic or unconscious?