Back

Congenital Syphilis

Definition

Syphilis is an infection caused by bacteria. Congenital syphilis is an infection that a baby is born with. In this case, the infection is passed from a mother to her baby.
This is a potentially serious condition that requires medical care. If untreated, a baby with congenital syphilis can have problems throughout life. It can also cause a stillbirth or death in early infancy.
Spread of Syphilis During Pregnancy
exh37894a 96472 1
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a specific bacteria. This infection can pass to a baby through an infected mother. The baby may be infected during pregnancy or the birth process.

Risk Factors

A baby has an increased risk of developing congenital syphilis if the mother:

Symptoms

Symptoms of congenital syphilis include:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam may be done.
Bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with x-rays.
Your child's vision may be tested with an eye exam.

Treatment

Syphilis is treated with an antibiotic called penicillin. It may be given to the mother during pregnancy. The medication in pregnancy will treat the child as well the mother. Penicillin will also be given to infected babies after birth.
Other steps may be needed if your child has complications from syphilis. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of spreading congenital syphilis:

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Congenital syphilis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 16, 2014. Accessed May 29, 2014.

Syphilis—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm. Updated April 1, 2014. Accessed May 29, 2014.

Revision Information