Neonatal Sepsis

Neonatal sepsis is a severe illness that primarily affects babies younger than 90 days. Sepsis happens when the body reacts violently to an illness. When a newborn becomes ill with an infection and develops sepsis, their entire body may be inflamed. Hence, your baby's limbs and crucial organs receive less blood due to this blood clotting and inflammation. In more serious conditions, organ failure and death may occur.

Common Symptoms of Neonatal Sepsis

Early indicators of newborn sepsis are typically ambiguous, subtle, and indistinguishable among different organisms. Regardless, very prevalent early warning symptoms include:

  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Fast or slow heart rate
  • Diarrhoea
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Seizures
  • Diminished spontaneous activity
  • Anorexia
  • Bradycardia
  • Apnea
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Temperature instability (hyperthermia or hypothermia)
  • Fast breathing or shortness of breath

What causes Neonatal Sepsis?

Bacteria including Listeria, Escherichia coli (E Coli), and a few streptococcus strains can cause neonatal sepsis. Additionally, neonatal sepsis has often been linked to Group B streptococcus (GBS). However, as pregnant women are now vigorously tested, the issue of neonatal sepsis has become less widespread. In addition, a newborn infant can develop a serious illness from the herpes simplex virus (HSV) as well. However, this is only evident if the mother is affected.

Most frequently, early-onset neonatal sepsis manifests itself 24 to 48 hours after birth, and a mother's infection spreads to the infant either before or during birth. Additionally, the following factors raise a baby's chance of developing early-onset bacterial sepsis:

  • Colonisation of GBS while pregnant
  • Premature birth
  • Tearing of membranes before 18 hours of delivery.
  • Infection of the amniotic fluid and placental tissues (chorioamnionitis)

After delivery, newborns with late-onset neonatal sepsis contract the infection. After delivery, the following factors raise a baby's risk of developing sepsis:

  • Long-term implantation of a catheter in the blood
  • Having to spend a lot of time in the hospital

When should I consult a doctor?

You can consult a doctor if - 

  • Your infant is acting atypically sleepier or irritable than usual.
  • The skin on your infant is cold, pallid, or discoloured.
  • Your infant is not breathing properly or is not responding.
  • Your baby is wearing a dry diaper exceeding 12 hours.


A few complications of neonatal sepsis may include -

  • Death
  • Disability


Your obstetrician may advise you to take prophylactic antibiotics to avoid spreading an infection to your unborn child. Also, hours before delivery, your healthcare professional may administer IV antibiotics to you if:

  • The mother's vagina is colonised with group B strep.
  • You are infected, perhaps with chorioamnionitis.
  • A prior child of yours was born with sepsis.

Besides these, you can also take the following actions to avoid developing sepsis:

  • Make routine visits to your doctor.
  • Maintain proper hygiene.
  • Recognize the sepsis symptoms.
  • Obtain the immunisations that are advised.
  • If you believe you or your child may have sepsis, seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Treatment for neonatal sepsis needs to start right away after diagnosis. Your baby may be admitted to an intensive care unit by a medical professional. Among the possible treatments for neonatal sepsis are –

  • Intravenous antibiotics.
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids.
  • Medicine that fights viruses to treat viral illnesses.
  • Medicine for high blood pressure or the heart.
  • If necessary, more oxygen and other types of breathing assistance.
  • Babies occasionally require blood transfusions.

In the first week of a baby, sepsis with early onset is usually observed, and sepsis with a late onset usually develops between 1 week and 3 months of age. However, regardless, of the type, you must take immediate medical attention if your child is suffering from sepsis.  

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad - Jubilee Hills. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. What are the tests needed to diagnose neonatal sepsis?

A doctor may use various symptoms to diagnose neonatal sepsis. In this regard, a few of the tests might include a blood test, urine test, spinal tap, and imaging test.

2. Is neonatal sepsis common?

For neonates, particularly preterm newborns, early-onset sepsis is a common and significant issue.

3. What is the prognosis for neonatal sepsis?

Many infants with bacterial infections may fully recover and experience no further issues. Yet, a major factor in baby fatalities is neonatal sepsis. Hence, the better the outcome, the faster an infant receives care.

4. How is the risk of neonatal sepsis calculated?

Healthcare professionals can find out your newborn's risk of having early-onset neonatal sepsis using the early-onset sepsis calculator or Kaiser neonatal sepsis calculator.

5. When can I check up with the doctor who treated my infant?

The paediatrician might want to visit your child two to three days after the hospital discharges you. So, you can arrange a follow-up appointment to consult your baby's healthcare provider so they can look for any new indications of improvement

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