Neonatal Seizures

Neonatal seizures are a rare and serious medical condition that can have a major impact on the health of newborn babies. Affecting up to 2.5 per 1,000 live births, neonatal seizures are caused by an underlying neurological disorder or injury and can range from minor to life-threatening.

Early diagnosis is key to providing effective treatment, but many cases remain misdiagnosed due to their complex nature. Understanding the causes and symptoms of neonatal seizures is vital for healthcare professionals and parents alike.

What are neonatal seizures?

Neonatal seizures are a type of seizure that occurs in newborn babies up to 28 days old. These seizures can range from mild to severe and involve abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

The diagnosis is usually based on a physical examination by a doctor and an EEG (electroencephalogram) scan. Long-term effects may include developmental delays, hearing loss, or vision problems.

What causes neonatal seizures?

Neonatal seizures are caused by a variety of underlying conditions that affect the brain, such as hypoglycemia, infection, haemorrhage, and birth trauma.

In some cases, they can be caused by genetic or metabolic diseases that disrupt how the brain works. They can also be triggered by withdrawal from certain medications taken during pregnancy.

Seizures can also occur due to disruptions in oxygen levels or electrolyte imbalances in the baby's body. Premature babies are more likely to suffer from seizures due to their delicate neurological systems.

What are the symptoms of neonatal seizures?

Neonatal seizures typically present with a range of symptoms, including jerking or twitching of the body, stiffening of the limbs, losing consciousness, and difficulty breathing.

Other signs may include changes to the pupils, such as dilated or constricted pupils, and rapid eye movement. The baby may also have a fever and be uncharacteristically irritable.

In some cases, babies may experience a sudden drop in heart rate or blood pressure. Seizures can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

How can one prevent neonatal seizures?

The best way to help prevent neonatal seizures is by taking steps to ensure a baby's health during pregnancy.

Pregnant mothers should ensure they get enough rest and regular prenatal care, such as by attending all scheduled medical appointments, eating nutritious food, and avoiding any drugs or alcohol.

In addition, it is important to take steps to reduce the risk of infection, such as washing hands regularly and ensuring that vaccinations are up-to-date. Lastly, if the mother experiences any symptoms of pre-eclampsia or diabetes during pregnancy, it is important to seek medical attention right away.

What are the treatment options for neonatal seizures?

Treatment for neonatal seizures depends on the severity, type, and underlying cause. Anticonvulsant medication may be used to help stop or reduce the frequency of seizures. If the cause is an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.

In some cases, doctors may recommend a ketogenic diet or vitamin therapy to address nutritional deficiencies. Surgery may be required if there is an obstruction in the brain or a birth defect causing seizures.

Other treatments include cooling blankets and sponges to reduce body temperature and electrical stimulation of the brain with vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

When should a newborn be seen by a doctor for seizures?

If a newborn baby has a seizure, medical help should be sought immediately.

It is essential to seek expert medical advice as soon as possible if seizures are observed, to ensure the best care for the baby and to rule out any underlying conditions that may require further investigation or treatment.

Doctors will be able to assess the cause of the seizure and provide appropriate medical treatment, if necessary.


Neonatal seizures are serious medical conditions that require immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis is essential to ensure prompt treatment, which can significantly improve the prognosis of infants born with this condition.

With proper care and support, infants can have a healthy, normal life despite having had neonatal seizures. Parents need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of neonatal seizures so they can provide their babies with the best possible care to give them the best chance for a full recovery.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru - Brookefield. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. What kinds of neurological disorders can cause neonatal seizures?

Neonatal seizures can be caused by a variety of neurological disorders, including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, metabolic disorders, and congenital brain malformations.

2. How is the severity of neonatal seizures assessed?

The severity of neonatal seizures is typically determined by their frequency, type, and duration.

3. How does the prognosis for a child with neonatal seizures differ from the prognosis for one without?

Generally speaking, children who experience neonatal seizures have a poorer prognosis than those who do not, due to the potential for long-term neurological damage.

4. Are there any risk factors for developing neonatal seizures?

Risk factors for developing neonatal seizures may include prematurity, low birth weight, head trauma at birth, maternal drug use during pregnancy, fetal stroke or infection, and chromosomal abnormalities.

5. Can genetics play a role in the development of neonatal seizures?

Yes, certain genetic disorders can increase the risk of developing neonatal seizures, including tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) and Angelman syndrome.

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