• Congenital Syphilis


    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.


    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:
    • Does not receive prenatal care
    • Abuses drugs before or during pregnancy
    • Is involved in prostitution
    • Has unprotected sex


    Symptoms of congenital syphilis include:
    • Rash around the mouth, anus, and genitals
    • Poor weight gain
    • Difficulty feeding
    • Fever
    • Clear drainage from the nose
    • Deformities of the nose, upper arm, shins
    • Tooth abnormalities
    • Abdominal swelling
    • Vision problems
    • Hearing problems
    • Irritability
    • Rash
    • Peeling skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet


    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:
    • Blood tests of the mother and the baby
    • Tests on the placenta
    • Spinal tap to look for the presence of syphilis in the spinal fluid
    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. Taking the medication during 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:
    • Practice safe sex.
    • Get good prenatal care throughout pregnancy.
    • If you think you may have a sexually transmitted disease, get tested. Follow through on all your doctor’s recommendations.
    • Take your baby to all newborn and well-child check ups. Follow your doctor's recommendations for screening tests and immunizations.


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

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


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

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


    Congenital syphilis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T906280/Congenital-syphilis. Updated June 6, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.

    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 3, 2016.

    Syphilis—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm. Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed June 3, 2016.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.