Gonorrhea in newborn babies

Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that affects millions of people across the world. Recent data shows an average of just over 4 million adults contracting the infection each year in South Africa alone, with roughly half of these being women.

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The problem with women having gonorrhea is that they can sometimes pass it on to their child if they are pregnant. In fact, this happens approximately 15% of the time.

Gonorrhea Transfer from Mother to Child

Gonorrhea can pass from a mother to her child at the time of birth. Gonorrhea lives in moist, warm environments, including vaginal fluids. During birth, a baby comes into contact with these vaginal fluids. Hence a newborn can easily contract the gonorrhea bacteria from their mother.

Complications Associated with Pregnant Women with Gonorrhea

There are a number of complications that can occur when a woman with gonorrhea gets pregnant.

The most striking complication is that her chances of miscarriage or preterm delivery rise. As for the child, they may be born underweight or with face chorioamnionitis, which is the inflammation of the two fetal membranes.

Diseases in Newborns with Gonorrhea

The newborn may develop scalp infections, serious eye infections, upper respiratory infections, urethritis, or vaginitis. The gonorrheal bacteria may also infect the newborn’s blood, causing an array of diseases and conditions.

Some newborns develop arthritis because of bacteria that settles in their joints. If the bacteria target the nervous tissues, the child may develop inflammation in the brain or spinal cord, which could lead to any number of medical complications and long-term illnesses, including mental or physical retardation.

In such cases, the symptoms could start showing as early as 2-5 days after birth, or several years into adulthood, depending on where the bacteria has localized.

Eye Infections in Newborns with Gonorrhea

Eye infections in newborns are not usually caused by gonorrhea. However, on the rare occasion that they are, it is likely to result in permanent blindness. Luckily, this can be prevented to an extent with the use of antibiotics, namely erythromycin, in the form of ophthalmic ointments. In places with high occurrence of gonorrhea and related pregnancies, newborns are given routine antibiotics for their eyes regardless of the presence of an infection or not.

The best way to prevent eye infections in newborns under 28 days old is by screening the mother for gonorrhea before she goes into labor and treating her accordingly.

Prevention and Cure

Gonorrhea is a bacterial disease, which means that it can be controlled with the help of antibiotics. Newborns may be harshly affected by the use of antibiotics. The strong medication will destroy their natural flora and microbiota, leading to many complications in their future lives if proper care is not given to recover the natural microbiota.

In conclusion, gonorrhea can be passed on to a child from their mother, mainly through physical contact with her infected vaginal fluid. It can be cured in most cases with the use of antibiotics.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/infections-gonorrhea

https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/infections-gonorrhea#pregnancy-concerns

https://www.webmd.com/baby/pregnancy-sexually-transmitted-diseases#2-3