Neonatal sepsis is a bacterial infection in the blood. Early-onset sepsis develops in the first 2 to 3 days after birth. Late-onset sepsis develops within 3 to 7 days after birth.
Spread of Infection
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Neonatal sepsis is caused by bacteria.
Early-onset sepsis is caused by an infection from the mother. It may pass to the infant from the placenta or birth canal during birth. Late-onset sepsis is caused by bacteria from the healthcare environment.
This problem is more common in babies that are:
Other things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms may be:
You will be asked about your baby's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
These tests will be done to look for signs of infection:
Treatment depends on how severe the problem is. It may include:
Neonatal sepsis may be prevented by good prenatal care. This includes controlling any bacteria in the mother before it is spread during pregnancy or birth.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sick Kids—The Hospital for Sick Children
Early-onset neonatal sepsis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/early-onset-neonatal-sepsis. Updated July 2, 2018. Accessed January 7, 2020.
Late-onset neonatal sepsis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/late-onset-neonatal-sepsis. Updated November 8, 2019. Accessed January 7, 2020.
Neonatal sepsis (sepsis neonatorum). The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at:
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Updated July 2018. Accessed January 7, 2020.
Shane AL, Sánchez PJ, et al. Neonatal sepsis. Lancet. 2017 Oct 14;390(10104):1770-1780.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 7/28/2020