by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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 care from your doctor. 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. It is caused by the bacteria called Treponema pallidum. This infection can pass to a baby through an infected mother. The baby may be infected during pregnancy or the birth process.
Risk Factors TOP
A baby has an increased risk of developing congenital syphilis if the mother:
Symptoms of congenital syphilis in infants include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam may be done. Tests may include the following:
Syphilis is treated with an antibiotic called penicillin. It may be given to the mother during pregnancy. The medicine 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, take the following steps:
Centers for Disease Control
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Caring for Kids
The Canadian Paediatric Society
Congenital syphilis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . October 24, 2011. Accessed July 22, 2013.
Congenital Syphilis treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2006/congenital-syphilis.htm . Updated April 12, 2007. Accessed July 22, 2013.
Syphillis CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm . Updated February 11, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2013.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013