Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health.  Explore Lahey locations below or reach Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Beverly Hospital and Winchester Hospital.

by Kassir K

Definition

Syphilis is an infection caused by bacteria. Congenital syphilis (CS) is an infection passed from a mother to her baby. It is passed in the womb or during birth.

CS is serious. Your baby will need medical care. A baby with CS can have problems throughout life if CS is not treated. CS can also cause a stillbirth or death in infants.

Spread of Syphilis During Pregnancy
exh37894a 96472 1
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria.

Risk Factors

A baby has a higher risk of CS if the mother:

  • Doesn't get prenatal care
  • Has unprotected sex
  • Has many sex partners
  • Has HIV infection

Symptoms

CS may result in:

  • Skin that is yellow in color
  • Fluids leaking from the nose
  • Rash
  • A hoarse cry or snoring
  • Vomiting
  • Poor weight gain
  • Delayed development
  • Eyesight problems
  • Balance problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Deformities of the nose, upper arm, shins
  • Tooth abnormalities

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done.

Body fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests of the mother and the baby
  • Tests on the placenta
  • Spinal tap to look for syphilis in the spinal fluid
  • Tests on the baby's urine

Pictures may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with x-rays .

Your child's hearing may be tested.

Treatment

Syphilis is treated with antibiotics. It may be given to the mother during pregnancy. Taking it during pregnancy will treat the child and the mother. The medicine will also be given to infected babies after birth.

Other steps may be needed if your child has problems. Talk with your doctor about the best plan.

Prevention

Get treated for syphilis to prevent spreading CS.

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  https://www.canada.ca 

References

Congenital syphilis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906280/Congenital-syphilis  . Updated April 25, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018.

Congenital syphilis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/infections-in-neonates/congenital-syphilis. Updated October 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018.

Syphilis—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm. Updated June 13, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2018.

Revision Information