Chapter 15: The first weeks after the birth
If the cord was cut with something that was not
sterilized, or if someone put dirt or dung on the cord
stump, the baby can get tetanus. Even with good
care and medicine, most babies who get tetanus will die.
To prevent tetanus, pregnant women must be vaccinated (see page 102), and
the cord must be kept clean.
A baby with tetanus will usually be stiff, with her head bent back, and will have
very brisk (strong) reflexes. Check the baby’s reflexes for signs of tetanus:
Let the leg hang freely
and tap it just below
If the leg jumps a little bit,
the reaction is normal.
If it jumps a lot, the baby
may have tetanus.
If you see signs of tetanus, get medical help immediately.
If medical help is more than 2 hours away
• inject 100,000 Units benzylpenicillin ���������������������������on the outside of the
baby’s thigh muscle, 1 time only
Pneumonia (lung infection)
Infection can also happen in the baby’s lungs (pneumonia). This is
most common if the mother’s water broke more than 24 hours before
the birth, or if she had a fever during labor.
Signs of a lung infection in a baby are: breathing fast (more than
60 breaths a minute) grunting when she breathes, or sucking in the
skin between her ribs as she breathes. Get medical help, especially if
the baby is small or was born early. On the way, give antibiotics.
Meningitis (brain infection)
Rarely, a baby becomes infected in the brain
(meningitis). A baby with an infection in the brain
will have a stiff neck and lie with her head bent back.
She may vomit, the soft spot on her head will bulge,
and she may become unconscious. A baby with an
infection of the brain can quickly die. Take the baby to a hospital immediately.
If you have antibiotics, give them on the way to the hospital. See page 279.
A Book for Midwives (2010)