Most babies are born fit and healthy; however some babies can develop an infection during or shortly after birth. In a small number of babies an infection can be serious or even life threatening.
When a baby develops an infection in the first 72 hours of life, this is called ‘early onset neonatal infection’.
On this page, you can find information about how we monitor babies at risk of infection, how it is treated, and when you need to seek medical advice for your baby after you have gone home.
Early onset neonatal infection
Healthcare professionals taking care of your baby will have assessed whether your baby is at risk of an early onset neonatal infection earlier to, and after birth.
The most common cause is Group B Strep (GBS), a common bacteria found in approximately one in four healthy women, which doesn’t usually cause any problems for them and is not a sexually transmitted infection. However, GBS can put your baby at an increased risk of developing early onset infection.
Risk factors for infection include:
- Group B Strep (GBS) has been found on a vaginal swab or from a urine sample taken during your pregnancy
- If you have previously had a baby who had a GBS infection
- Your baby being born before 37 weeks
- Your waters breaking more than 18 hours before your baby is born.
- If you have a fever higher than 38°C or you are suspected of having an infection in the amniotic fluid (your waters)
If any of these apply to you, we will investigate and let you know if we recommend that your baby is closely monitored or started on antibiotics. This will be discussed with you before any treatment is started.
My baby may have an infection – what does this mean?
The most important treatment for infection in newborn babies is antibiotics, which are given through a drip. Your baby may need more than one drip during the course of the treatment. Treating your baby means they are more likely to recover without any complications.
Before giving antibiotics it will be necessary to do some tests which will help us determine whether or not your baby has an infection. The tests will direct us to which type of infection, and how long we may need to continue the antibiotics.
The team looking after your baby will keep you informed of the results of the tests and explain what the results mean.
When can my baby come home?
Once your baby is well enough and has finished the antibiotic course, you can discuss going home with the team of doctors, nurses and midwives. There can be many factors which influence the time your baby can be discharged home.
Following discharge, if you have any concerns about your baby, ask advice from your GP, NHS Direct, or your local Accident and Emergency department.
If you have any more questions regarding your baby’s treatment, please ask a member of staff.
Things to look out for after you have gone home
- Alterations in behaviour or responsiveness
- Refusing to feed, vomiting or their tummy looks bloated
- Signs of breathing difficulties
- Excessive crying
- Changes in skin colour
- Abnormal temperature
- Rapid breathing or pauses in breathing
If you are unsure what to do and need urgent advice, please call either your GP or 111.
If you need urgent assistance, please go to your local Emergency Department.
Date of Issue: January, 2021
Review Period: January, 2024