Neonatal Sepsis

What is Neonatal sepsis?

Severe infection in an infant younger than 28 days old is termed Neonatal sepsis. It is a non-communicable disease that may be acquired from the mother or through external environmental agents. As it is a non-communicable disease, it poses no risk to the mother and/or caregivers.

What are the types of Neonatal sepsis?

Neonatal sepsis is classified into 2 types

  • Early Onset Neonatal sepsis

Neonatal sepsis symptoms are seen between day 0 to day 3 of life.

  • Late Onset Neonatal sepsis

Neonates aged 4 days and older exhibiting symptoms of sepsis are diagnosed with late-onset Neonatal sepsis.

Symptoms of Neonatal sepsis

Sepsis symptoms in neonates can range from non-specific vague symptoms to complete multiple organ failure. Some of the common recognizable symptoms include:

  • Irritability and constant crying
  • Poor feeding and lack of hunger signs
  • Fever that may last for more than a day
  • Inability to stay awake due to nervous system and brain involvement.
  • Respiratory distress in the form of increased breath rate.
  • Lethargy

What leads to Neonatal sepsis?

Neonatal sepsis may occur due to infective bacterial sources from the mother or environmental bacterial agents. The most common pathogens involved are Streptococcus, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, and Haemophilus. The infection can primarily affect the mother's reproductive organs like the vagina and cervix and travel to the womb and or infect the baby during delivery.

When to see a doctor?

It is recommended to seek medical help when the infant shows signs like poor feeding, lethargy, constant crying, inability to sleep and eat, etc.

Risk factors for Neonatal sepsis

  • An infant is born prematurely before 37 weeks of gestation.
  • Use of a central venous line or a catheter after birth.
  • The amniotic sac breaks after birth.
  • Low birth weight babies

Complications of Neonatal sepsis

Death is the greatest complication as the infection may spread fast to vital organs.

Long-term complications may include physical and mental disabilities as the infant grows like hearing and visual deficits, inadequate mental development, Chronic lung disease, and resistance to antibiotics that may occur in overdoses.

What are the ways to prevent Neonatal sepsis?

  • The risk of neonatal sepsis can be significantly lowered with extensive hygiene protocols in hospitals and houses.
  • Frequent sanitization of surgical and medical equipment used for delivery and any medical procedures carried out on the infant and neonate.
  • Frequent hand washing by the mother and caregivers.
  • Monitoring of the infant and neonate for signs and symptoms of infection and sepsis for early diagnosis and management.

Treatment strategy for Neonatal sepsis

The primary strategy in controlling neonatal sepsis is to control the source of infection and stabilize the neonate to prevent further organ damage.

  • Antibiotics: Intravenous Ampicillin and Aminoglycosides are administered to cover most of the pathogens causing infection.
  • Fluid, oxygen, nutritional, and medical support are provided in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Prevention of sepsis is the goal aimed at during and after the delivery of a baby. Furthermore, early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to successfully managing neonatal sepsis.

One should seek medical help and attention when the parents and other caregivers notice any signs and symptoms of a potential infection.


Neonatal sepsis is the presence of severe infection in an infant less than 28 days old. The infection can be acquired from the mother or the external environment. Treatment includes control of infection with antibiotics and other medical support. Possible complications include long-term disability and death due to multi-system failure. Prevention, therefore, remains a sustainable option with strict hygiene protocols and early diagnosis and management.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Amritsar - Abadi Court Road. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. What is the most common cause of neonatal sepsis?

Bacterial pathogens like Staphylococcus, and E. coli remain the most important causes of sepsis that may be acquired from the mother or the surrounding environment.

2. Why are babies at more risk of infection and sepsis?

Babies have an immature immune system that is incapable of fighting bacteria. They are therefore susceptible to infection that spreads quickly in their body.

3. How can we prevent neonatal sepsis?

Neonatal sepsis can be prevented by proper hand hygiene when handling the baby. Use sanitized materials for the baby and monitor the baby for any signs and symptoms of infection.

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