Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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.
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.
A baby has an increased risk of developing congenital syphilis if the mother:
Symptoms of congenital syphilis include:
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.
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.
To help reduce your chances of spreading congenital syphilis:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
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.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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