Congenital Infections in Children - Causes and Prevention - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Congenital Infections in Children- Causes, Prevention

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 20 Nov 2014 - 12:18.

Any infection contracted by the baby either during pregnancy, delivery or after delivery can be termed as a congenital infection.

Most infections contracted by a mother during pregnancy don’t affect the fetus. However, some of the infections cross the placenta and affect the fetus causing harm to the baby. These infections are often brief and are minor infections during pregnancy which often remain unnoticed. The pregnant woman is normally unaware of such possibilities. Chronic infections like HIV and AIDS may also be passed on to the fetus.

Timing of infections: Whatever be the infection, its effect on the baby depends on the stage of pregnancy at which the infection occurs. In early pregnancy the development of organs in the baby may get disrupted. In some cases a miscarriage can occur resulting in the loss of the fetus.

Infections occurring in the mother during later stages of her pregnancy might lead to preterm labor or birth of a seriously ill baby. Infections in the mother may also be transmitted to the baby as they pass through the birth canal during delivery.


The causes for the infection vary according to the duration of pregnancy and the type of infection. In the first 3 months of pregnancy an infection with rubella can lead to congenital heart problems in the baby or the child may end up with hearing loss and impaired vision. Some infections like CMV (CytoMegaloVirus) or toxoplasmosis may lead to serious congenital problems like deafness and permanent loss of vision.Chronic viral infections which can pass from the mother to the fetus include HIV infection, Hepatitis B & C. Chronic bacterial infections like syphilis may also pass on to the fetus and the child so affected may show symptoms of the infection after several years of birth.

Some infections like herpes simplex (genital herpes) and bacterial streptococcal infections may pass on to the fetus during the process of labor and cause acute problems and occasionally fatal illness in the newborn. Some of these infections don’t always produce symptoms at birth, but can cause serious illness in later life.

If a baby is seriously ill when born and a congenital illness is suspected, it is necessary to get a sample of blood and urine examined. Ultrasonograpgy and echocardiography of the baby are mandatory if there is slightest suspicion of a problem in the brainor heart so as to institute immediate remedial measures depending on what the problem is. If there is a suspicion of hepatitis B virus infection, in the mother the baby must be given antibodies against the virus.


Prevention of these infections is possible if the mother observes some precautions like:

  • Minimizing the risk of these diseases even before conception.
  • Ensuring that they are free from rubella before taking a chance for pregnancy.
  • If she is a suspected case of HIV infection,the mother should always go in for a cesarean section  to avoid risk of infecting the baby if allowed to be born through normal route and also use antiviral drugs to minimize the risk of infection to the baby.

A deadly infection called toxoplasmosis which can lead to permanent blindness can be prevented if the mother takes care to avoid handling litter like cat waste, in instances of having cats as pets.

Mild congenital infections may not have lasting effect on the baby. However, care should be taken to rule out any congenital abnormality.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.