Congenital syphilis occurs when a mother's
syphilis goes untreated during pregnancy and is passed
to the baby through the
placenta. A baby can also become infected with
syphilis during labor or delivery.
The risk of infecting the baby is greatest when the mother is in the
early stages of syphilis. But infection is possible any time during
It is very important that a pregnant woman have a lab test to detect
syphilis. The baby's risk of getting syphilis is significantly reduced if the
mother receives treatment during pregnancy. If the mother is treated before the
16th week of her pregnancy, the baby will usually not become infected.
If an infected mother does not receive treatment, the mother may
miscarry, or the baby may be born dead, die shortly after birth, be born early,
or be infected with syphilis.1
Complications that can occur in a baby whose infected mother was not
Antibiotics can prevent progression of the disease in
an infected baby. But problems that have already developed may not be
If a baby with syphilis is not treated, the disease can progress to a
late congenital stage, if the baby lives past the first 6 to 12 months.
CitationsTramont EC (2010). Treponema pallidum (syphilis). In GL Mandell et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3035–3058. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
September 29, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Devika Singh, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.