Eye Ointment At Birth Pros And Cons – Ointment In Newborns

The moment a newborn enters the world is filled with excitement and anticipation.

Alongside this joy, health professionals implement various procedures to ensure the well-being of the baby.

One common practice is the application of eye ointment shortly after birth. What is the eye ointment at birth pros and cons? Keep reading to find out!

Do All Babies Get Eye Ointment After Birth?

eye ointment at birth pros and cons

No. Eye ointment after birth is a standard practice in many healthcare facilities around the world, but it is not universally applied to all newborns. 

The administration of eye ointment, typically containing antibiotics such as erythromycin or tetracycline, is a preventive measure to protect newborn babies against potential eye infections.

These bacterial infections can be caused by bacteria, including the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea, or by other common bacteria present in the birth canal.

While the use of eye ointment has proven to be effective in preventing certain eye infections, its application may vary depending on regional guidelines and individual circumstances.

In some countries or healthcare settings, it may be routine to apply baby eye ointment to all newborns shortly after birth.

Still, in others, it may be reserved for specific situations or based on the mother’s health history.

Ultimately, the decision regarding the practice’s administration is typically made by special care providers in consultation with parents.

Eye Ointment At Birth Pros And Cons

pros and cons of eye ointment at birth

This standard newborn procedure aims to prevent potential infections and STIs. It also acts as a routine protocol or treatment for existing infections.

But there are risks of allergy, microbiome disruption, or temporary blurred vision.

Here are the eye ointment for newborns pros and cons to consider.


Prevents Eye Infections

Eye ointment, typically containing antibiotics like erythromycin or tetracycline, is crucial in preventing bacterial eye infections in newborns. 

The birth process exposes the baby to various bacteria, some of which can lead to serious eye conditions.

Beside the eyes, the yeast infection behind babies’ ears is also worth noting, so keep that in mind.

Protects Against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

One of the significant advantages of eye ointment at birth is its ability to safeguard newborns against certain sexually transmitted infections.

Although it might seem unrelated, the birth canal can be a source of bacteria, including those responsible for STIs like gonorrhea.

These diseases, if left untreated, can lead to severe eye conditions and even blindness in infants.

Routine Protocol

The application of antibiotic eye ointment at birth is often considered a routine protocol in many healthcare facilities.

Standardized procedures ensure consistent prenatal care and reduce the chances of oversight.

This approach allows healthcare providers to address potential eye infections proactively, irrespective of individual circumstances or medical histories.

Prompt Treatment For Existing Infections

In some cases, newborns may already have eye infections at birth. These infections can stem from various factors, such as maternal infections or complications during delivery.

Antibiotic ointment acts as a prompt treatment, targeting existing infections and preventing them from worsening.


Temporary Blurred Vision

The ointment can cause a thick layer over the eyes, leading to hazy vision for a short period.

While this is generally a transient condition and does not bring long-term harm, it can be disconcerting for parents.

Allergic Reactions

Just like any medication, eye ointment can potentially trigger allergic reactions in some infants.

Although rare, some babies after birth may develop sensitivity to the active ingredients in the ointment, resulting in localized or systemic allergic responses.

These reactions range from mild skin irritation to more severe symptoms, such as swelling or difficulty breathing.

Disruption Of The Microbiome

The use of eye ointment at birth can also raise concerns about the potential disruption of the newborn’s microbiome.

The microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms that naturally inhabit the body, playing a vital role in various aspects of health.

Eye ointment containing antibiotics can affect the balance of bacteria on the surface of the eye, potentially altering the delicate microbiome.

What Are The Side Effects Of Erythromycin Eye Ointment For Newborns?

newborn eye ointment pros cons

Erythromycin eye ointment is commonly used for newborns to prevent newborn eye infections and treat certain eye conditions.

While it is generally considered safe and effective, there are some potential side effects that parents and healthcare providers should be aware of.

Here are some possible side effects of erythromycin eye ointment for newborns.

  • Eye Irritation: Some newborns may experience mild eye irritation after the application of erythromycin ointment. This can manifest as redness, itching, or a stinging sensation in the eyes. In most cases, the irritation is mild and resolves quickly.
  • Skin Sensitivity: Erythromycin ointment may trigger skin sensitivity or irritation around the eyes or eyelids. Redness, dryness, or flakiness of the skin are to be expected. If the irritation persists or worsens, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some newborns may develop an allergic reaction to erythromycin ointment. Signs of an allergic reaction may include rash, swelling, hives, or difficulty breathing. If any of these symptoms occur, immediate medical attention should be sought.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Delay Eye Ointment For Newborns?

Delaying eye ointment for newborns allows for crucial bonding time between parents and the baby, promoting emotional connection.

It also facilitates early breastfeeding by providing uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and the opportunity for successful latching.

After a labor that burns all of your calories, the moment your little one lying on your chest will recharge your energy.

Can Parents Refuse Erythromycin?

Yes, parents generally have the right to make informed personal decisions regarding their newborn’s medical maternity care, including the administration of erythromycin eye ointment.

While care providers may strongly recommend its use, parents can refuse the treatment after considering the potential benefits and risks.

Is Erythromycin FDA Approved?

Yes, erythromycin is FDA-approved.

Erythromycin ophthalmic ointment is specifically approved for the prevention of ophthalmia neonatorum, which is a form of eye infection that can be caused by certain bacteria transmitted during childbirth.

The FDA approval ensures that the medication has met the required standards for safety and effectiveness in preventing active infections in newborns.

The Bottom Line

Now you know all about eye ointment at birth pros and cons. The medical decision of whether to use eye ointment at birth involves weighing the potential benefits and drawbacks.

Open communication with healthcare providers and understanding individual circumstances will help parents make informed choices that prioritize their newborn’s overall health.

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