Maternal Origins of Neonatal Infections: What Do Obstetrician-Gynecologist Should/Could Do?

Am J Perinatol. 2022 Dec;39(S 01):S31-S41. doi: 10.1055/s-0042-1758858. Epub 2022 Dec 19.


Neonatal infections are responsible for 20% of neonatal deaths yearly. In this review, we focused on the origins of the commoner neonatal infections, and we define the role of obstetricians. Regarding group B Streptococcus, a key measure for the prevention of neonatal infection is the vaginal-rectal culture screening at term pregnancy. Intravenous penicillin is the first-line prophylaxis at the start of labor, with intravenous ampicillin as an alternative. First-generation cephalosporins or clindamycin are recommended in case of penicillin allergy. Concerning urinary tract infections (UTIs), guidelines recommend complete urinalysis and urine culture in the first trimester of pregnancy for the screening of asymptomatic bacteriuria. For lower UTIs, guidelines recommend nitrofurantoin as first-choice antibiotic. Amoxicillin or cefalexin are second-line antibiotics. For upper UTIs, guidelines recommend cephalexin per os as first line. Candida spp. colonization affects 20% of pregnant women; however, congenital fetal candidosis and Candida amnionitis are rare. First-line treatment in case of symptomatic vaginitis during pregnancy or asymptomatic colonization during the third trimester is vaginal clotrimazole. Fluconazole is not approved in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Genital mycoplasmas colonization during pregnancy is usually asymptomatic and associated with bacterial vaginosis. Colonization is related to neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), pneumonia, chorioamnionitis, and sepsis. Macrolides are the first-line treatment along with lactobacillus supplementation. In cases of preterm premature rupture of membranes or preterm labor, ceftriaxone, clarithromycin, and metronidazole are required to prevent intra-amniotic infection. Intra-amniotic infection affects 1 to 5% of deliveries at term and one-third of preterm ones and is associated with perinatal death, early-onset neonatal sepsis, RDS, BPD, pneumonia, meningitis, and prematurity-related diseases. Guidelines recommend a combination of ampicillin and gentamicin, and in case of caesarean section, an additional dose of clindamycin or metronidazole is required. In conclusion, obstetricians should be aware that the treatment of maternal infection during pregnancy can prevent potentially lethal infections in the newborn. KEY POINTS: · Part of neonatal infections starts from maternal infections that must be treated during pregnancy.. · Streptococcus group B and asymptomatic bacteriuria should be investigated in pregnancy and treated.. · Mycoplasma and ureaplasma vaginal colonization during pregnancy is related to negative neonatal outcomes..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ampicillin / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteriuria* / drug therapy
  • Cesarean Section
  • Chorioamnionitis* / drug therapy
  • Clindamycin / therapeutic use
  • Communicable Diseases*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases*
  • Fetal Membranes, Premature Rupture* / drug therapy
  • Gynecologists
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Metronidazole / therapeutic use
  • Obstetricians
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious* / drug therapy


  • Clindamycin
  • Metronidazole
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ampicillin