Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection which, if a mother has it during pregnancy and labour, can cause eye or lung infections in the newborn baby. The risk of transmission during birth varies, but is about 20% to 50% for eye infections and about 10% to 20% for infection of the lungs.
Chlamydia and your baby
If you are pregnant it is important to be tested, even if you are exhibiting none of the signs and symptoms of Chlamydia. Chlamydia has been linked with premature delivery resulting from the infection stimulating the rupture of your uterine membranes. Additionally, Chlamydia can cause your baby to have a low birth weight at birth. The infection can also be easily passed to your child during birth.
As your baby passes through the birth canal, she will come into contact with your blood and vaginal fluids. The bacteria that cause Chlamydia, Chlamydia trachomatis, are passed through contact with these fluids. In fact, between 20% and 50% of babies born to infected mothers will contract the infection. If your baby contracts Chlamydia from you during pregnancy, it is possible that she will develop infections in the genitals, lungs, ears, and eyes. Babies infected with Chlamydia are at a particular risk for developing neonatal conjunctivitis (pink eye) and pneumonia.
Symptoms of chlamydia in newborns
If you are pregnant and infected with Chlamydia, there is a good chance that your baby will also contract the illness. Neonatal conjunctivitis is an infection caused by chlamydia that occurs in your baby’s eyes. Symptoms of Chlamydia infection in the eyes generally occur within 10 days of birth. Although your baby will be alert and aware, his eyes will be irritated and red. Moreover, he may experience swollen eyelids and a discharge from his eyes. This discharge can range from watery to thick and yellowish in appearance.
Even though your baby’s symptoms can vary, from very mild to severe, it is necessary to seek treatment as soon as possible. Conjunctivitis can be very damaging to your newborn’s eyes and can cause scarring and even permanent blindness.
Chlamydia infections in newborns can also lead to Infant Pneumonia. Symptoms of this infection develop between three and six weeks after birth. Your baby will exhibit a dry, irritating cough, which will gradually become more congested. Symptoms will become worse and can include rapid or labored breathing. 50% of newborns with Chlamydia pneumonia will also develop Chlamydial conjunctivitis.
Treatment of chlamydia in newborns
If your baby is born with signs of Chlamydia he can also be successfully treated with Erythromycin. However, by getting tested when you first find out you are pregnant, you can prevent your baby from contracting the disease and suffering any physical damage as a result.