Throughout pregnancy, one of the biggest concerns of women is in relation to childbirth. Whether it will be normal, humanized or cesarean and how it will be or will feel during that moment. But what most are unaware of is what happens to the baby shortly after birth and the procedures that they must undergo in the first minutes of life. One of these procedures is the application of silver nitrate in the newborn’s eyes, focusing on the prevention of conjunctivitis , gonococcal and chlamydia that can be transmitted during childbirth.
The procedure became mandatory in Brazil in 1977 as determined by the Ministry of Health after a major outbreak of baby blindness at the time due to conjunctivitis caused by gonorrhea bacteria, which was a very common disease at the time. This measure has greatly reduced the number of babies affected and, for this reason, its use has been extended until today and throughout the world.
The big problem is that the use of silver nitrate in the eyes of the newborn can cause chemical conjunctivitis , great irritation in the eyes, in addition to being extremely painful, burning the baby’s eyes and even staining his skin at the time of being dripped. There comes the questioning! If gonorrhea is not such a common disease nowadays and if it is possible to detect it through an examination during prenatal care, why still let babies go through this painful procedure? Is it really necessary?
Another point that is much discussed is in relation to the form of birth, because if the baby is infected with gonococcal bacteria through vaginal delivery , why is silver nitrate applied to babies also born through cesarean section? And the answer according to pediatricians and neonatologists is that if there is a ruptured pouch or rupture of the placenta, there is a danger of the baby becoming contaminated, even if born through a cesarean section.
What few mothers are also unaware of is that they can block the use of silver nitrate eye drops by signing a term of responsibility at the maternity hospital refusing the procedure and still being able to attach the prenatal exams that prove the absence of the bacteria that serve as a justification suspension of the procedure.
To Use or Not to Use Silver Nitrate in Newborns?
Indeed, the procedure of applying silver nitrate to the newborn’s eyes significantly reduced the number of blind children after this measure and this is a fact. However, according to some experts, silver nitrate is not 100% effective in combating gonococcal bacteria and chlamydia, since some chlamydiae have some resistance to silver nitrate. In these cases, it is necessary to use silver nitrate in combination with other drugs to fight the bacteria.
The use of silver nitrate in newborns can also cause toxic conjunctivitis in the first 48 hours of life and if it does not disappear during this period, it is considered neonatal conjunctivitis . In this case, in addition to the newborn, the mother must also double the care so that she is not contaminated as well. Contrary to what they believe, conjunctivitis is not caught by air, but by contact. Therefore, the mother’s hands should be thoroughly washed after cleaning the baby’s eyes.
If silver nitrate is not applied soon after birth and the baby has contact with bacteria and develops conjunctivitis caused by gonococcus, blindness can occur in a matter of hours, totally and irreversibly. During the procedure of applying dish nitrate to newborns it is possible to minimize the risks and aggressions caused by it. The product can be dried with cotton or gauze right after the administration, removing the excess and not allowing the substance to accumulate damaging the sensitive skin of the eyes.
If you have questions about the procedure and want to clarify before the day of delivery, talk to your obstetrician and see how to proceed in the maternity ward. If possible, perform all the necessary tests during the prenatal period to rule out the presence of the bacterium and present it on the day of delivery to discard the use of the product, if this is your option.
My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.
Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.