What's That Shiny Stuff on That Newborn's Eyes? | Wichita Doula

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In almost every photo of a brand-new baby, you may have noticed that it looks like there is a shiny or gooey substance on their eyes. What is it, and why is it so common?

History

Back in the late 1800s, three out of every 1000 infants born in European hospitals were afflicted with blindness, caused by ophthalmia neonatorum – a form of pinkeye. These infections were being transmitted during vaginal births by mothers with gonorrhea. One doctor, Carl Crede, found that he could prevent these infections by administering silver nitrate to each new baby's eyes. He had a great success rate!

Today

Now that we have antibiotics, infants who develop ON can be treated, which means blindness is not common. In the United States, an antibiotic ointment called Erythromycin is now applied to the eyes of each infant at birth, as it has far fewer side effects than silver nitrate and is also effective against ON caused by chlamydia.

Treating All Infants

So, since gonorrhea or chlamydia in the mother is the only way for a baby to contract ON, why do all babies receive the treatment?

It is common to not display any symptoms when gonorrhea or chlamydia is present.

Many parents also do not get screened often. In order to prevent any infections from occurring, many health organizations and even some state laws insist that the ointment is administered to each newborn as part of the routine, regardless of the circumstances.

Some parents who give birth via Cesarean or know that they are STI-free choose to opt-out,

citing concerns over their infant's vision being blurred or the overuse of antibiotics.

In any case, parents can weigh the options against their personal circumstances and choose what is right for their family!

Source:

Evidence-Based Birth

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