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Eye Drops After Birth- What, When and Why

Eye Drops After Birth- What, When and WhyIn the excitement of having a new baby, many parents don't realize that their child receives eye drops shortly after birth. Most infants will receive these eye drops within minutes or hours of their birth and they are standard procedure in many U.S. hospitals. What are these infant eye drops? When are they administered? What benefits do they offer? Keep reading to learn more about infant eye drops, their risks and their benefits.

What Type of Eye Drops are Given?
The most common type of eye drop that an infant will receive is typically an antibiotic eye drop. These are given to babies shortly after birth to help prevent eye infections that could potentially lead to blindness. Currently the most commonly used antibiotic is erythromycin, but some hospitals use silver nitrate.

Erythromycin is an antibiotic eye drop that is commonly used to fight bacterial infections of the eye after birth. It is usually applied in a drop form and is often given to all infants regardless of whether or not signs or risk of infection are present.

Silver nitrate was once the primary form of infant eye drops administered, although it has now been widely replaced by erythromycin. Silver nitrate has been known to cause discomfort in infants and has been linked to an eye infection known as chemical conjunctivitis, caused by a chemical reaction to the silver nitrate.

When Are Eye Drops Administered?
Infant eye drops are required by law in many states and are given to all babies shortly after birth. These eye drops can make the baby's eyes look glassy, watery or shiny. Some people believe that infant eye drops can make it difficult for the baby to see for a few hours. Some parents choose to delay the administration of these drops for a few hours to allow their child to adjust and bond before the drops are given.

Since these eye drops are required by state law in many places, most parents are not asked before the drops are administered. They are given to babies born vaginally and babies born via cesarean section.

Why Are Eye Drops Given?
Eye drops are administered to newborn infants shortly after birth to prevent a condition known as neonatal conjunctivitis, which is a type of eye infection. In newborn babies it is often caused by bacteria they are exposed to during their trip down the birth canal. The bacteria that cause gonorrhea and chlamydia are common culprits, even if the mother doesn't have any symptoms of these sexually transmitted diseases. Giving an infant eye drops can kill the bacteria that cause neonatal conjunctivitis and can help prevent blindness caused by an infection.

Before infant antibiotic eye drops were routinely given, blindness from infection was very common. Since the eye drops have been administered, it is much less common. Many babies will avoid blindness through this practice.

What Are the Risks?
Many parents worry about the potential risk of the eye drops to their new baby, especially if the mother doesn't have signs of a vaginal infection. The risks of this treatment are considered very low, especially when the benefits of avoiding blindness are considered. Most medical professionals agree that this treatment appears to pose little to no risk, but carries many benefits. Even women with no signs of an STD can still have the bacteria present in their birth canals. Women that test negative for an STD during pregnancy may develop an infection before giving birth. This treatment is typically recommended for all infants.

The side effects associated with these eye drops are relatively small. Blurred vision is one of the most common. Erythromycin is believed to be much more comfortable for the infant and is used more commonly than silver nitrate for this reason. If parents are concerned about the side effects associated with these eye drops, they may be able to delay the administration of the treatment a few hours by talking with their doctor.

After a baby is born they will undergo many different tests, treatments and procedures. One of these is the administration of antibiotic eye drops. These special drops can help to prevent neonatal conjunctivitis, a serious eye infection that can lead to blindness.

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