Neonatal meningitis is where the lining of the brain, the meninges, becomes inflamed in the first 28 days after a baby is born. Neonatal meningitis is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection but can also be the result of some viral infections. Infection can be passed on to the baby before delivery via the amniotic fluid, during delivery when passing through the birth canal or after delivery through contact with persons and medical devices.
Newborn babies are especially vulnerable to bacterial infections as their immune system has not fully developed and also because they do not receive their first immunizations until 2 months of age. Some of these immunizations protect against the types of infections which can cause meningitis.
The newborn babies who have the highest risk of meningitis include:
- Babies born prematurely;
- Babies with a low birth weight;
- Babies born where the pregnant woman tested positive for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in pregnancy;
- Babies who have been born following a premature and prolonged rupture of membranes (where the membranes ruptured more than 18 hours before delivery);
- Babies who have suffered a traumatic delivery;
- Babies who have been deprived of oxygen during delivery;
- Babies born where the pregnant woman had chorioamnionitis, which is an inflammation of the placenta commonly as a result of infection.
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Understanding Birth Injuries
- Labour and delivery