6.4  Infection in the newborn

Infection is common in newborn babies and neonatal infection is one of the major causes of their deaths.

  • Can you remember (e.g. from Study Session 1) why there is a higher risk of infection in newborns than in older children or adults?

  • A key reason is the immaturity of the newborn’s immune system, which takes several months after birth to develop sufficiently to give much protection from infection.

PROM was the subject of Study Session 17 in the Antenatal Care Module; prolonged or obstructed labour was covered in Study Session 9 of the Labour and Delivery Care Module.

This means that newborns are especially vulnerable to exposure to infectious agents during pregnancy, delivery and in the home after the birth. The most common risk factors for newborn infection are prolonged premature rupture of the fetal membranes (PROM), prolonged labour or obstructed labour, and pre-existing lower genital tract infection in the mother. We first consider eye infections in newborns.

6.3  Does the baby have jaundice?

6.4.1  What are the signs of eye infection in newborns?