Eye drops in newborns

Our Bradley Class assignment for this week is to come up with our birth plan, and as part of that, I’ve been doing some research and reading about the eye drops they put on newborns almost as soon as they are born.

The “eye drops” are an antibacterial agent that prevents gonorrhea or chlamydia in the mother from causing and infection and possible blindness in the baby. Hospitals used to use silver nitrate, and now they use Erythromycin.

In my searches, I have found some people questioning the efficacy of Erythromycin in preventing such infections. Whatever the truth is about that, it’s entirely irrelevant in our case because from what I can tell, there is simply no reason to do this procedure on an infant whose mother does not have these STDs.

I found some web pages making the argument that since the vast majority of mothers actually get reasonable pre-natal care that tests for these STDs, and they get treated before they give birth, the entire practice is relatively pointless. Regardless of the financial and legal reasoning behind hospitals’ decisions to maintain this practice, it’s clear to me that it’s just another unnecessary routine that we will explicitly avoid in our birth plan.

Here are some of the resources and links I found:

Newborn Baby Eye Drops Explained

Newborn Procedures (including a section on eye ointments)

Wikipedia entry on Erythromycin

Google Answers thread about Erythromycin


One thought on “Eye drops in newborns

  1. Jason Sugg says:

    Yeah, it’s amazing how much they push this. We too decided there was absolutely no reason for us to do this. But still, hours after Maggie was born (62 hour labor!) a doctor came in and started berating us for endangering our child and made us sign a hand-written release of liability. Hospitals are all about reducing their exposure to risk and definitely not necessarily about doing what’s best for you.

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