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Erythromycin Ointment-Routine at Hospital Births

In the first hour following a hospital birth, ointment will be applied to your child's eyes to prevent spread of sexually transmitted disease that could pass to your baby and cause blindness. Rather than test for an STD before applying the ointment, they simply apply it to all infants. This ointment doesn't sting, however it does interfere significantly with your child's ability to gaze into your eyes during the initial hours following birth. However, many mothers object to their babies receiving a treatment that is unnecessary, especially if they are in a monogamous relationship and know they don't have an STD, or if they have been previously tested. As the parent, you have the right to refuse, regardless of what you are told. Click Here to read the medical research studies which explain why choosing to forgoe the ointment is a reasonable decision for parents to make because the treatment does not significantly reduce infection, and many infants who receive the treatment contraction the infection anyway.

From Unhindered Living...
Is it necessary and effective?


According to medical studies, no. Below you will find studies which prove that the eye ointment routinely applied to newborns does not significantly alter eye infections as opposed to no ointment of any kind. Also, there is evidence that the bacteria which cause these infections are not passed to the infant in the birth canal, but after birth. Also, it has been found that a significant number of infants develop an infection even though they HAVE received the ointment. Read for yourself.

Bell TA, Grayston JT, Krohn MA, Kronmal RA. Randomized trial of silver nitrate, erythromycin, and no eye prophylaxis for the prevention of conjunctivitis among newborns not at risk for gonococcal ophthalmitis. Pediatrics 1993 Dec;92(6):755-60.

Eye Prophylaxis Study Group. Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington, Seattle 98195. OBJECTIVE. To compare the efficacy of commonly used forms of eye prophylaxis for newborns with no prophylaxis in the prevention of nongonococcal conjunctivitis. The results suggest that parental choice of a prophylaxis agent including no prophylaxis is reasonable for women receiving prenatal care and who are screened for sexually transmitted diseases during pregnancy.

Chen JY. Prophylaxis of ophthalmia neonatorum: comparison of silver nitrate, tetracycline, erythromycin and no prophylaxis. Pediatr Infect Dis J 1992 Dec;11(12):1026-30.

The incidence rates of neonatal chlamydial conjunctivitis in the tetracycline, erythromycin, silver nitrate, no prophylaxis and erythromycin twice groups were 1.3, 1.5, 1.7, 1.6 and 1.4%, respectively. We conclude that neonatal ocular prophylaxis with erythromycin (one or two doses) or tetracycline or silver nitrate does not significantly reduce the incidence of neonatal chlamydial conjunctivitis compared with that in those given no prophylaxis.

Krohn MA, Hillier SL, Bell TA, Kronmal RA, Grayston JT. The bacterial etiology of conjunctivitis in early infancy. 5: Am J Epidemiol 1993 Sep 1;138(5):326-32.

The findings concerning the species of bacteria most often associated with conjunctivitis, as well as the finding that method of delivery is unimportant, suggest that bacteria were transmitted to the infants' eyes after birth and not from the birth canal.

Black-Payne C, Bocchini JA Jr, Cedotal C. Failure of erythromycin ointment for postnatal ocular prophylaxis of chlamydial conjunctivitis. 14: Pediatr Infect Dis J 1989 Aug;8(8):491-5.

The conclusion was that a substantial percentage of infants exposed to Chlamydia develop chlamydial conjunctivitis despite receiving erythromycin ocular prophylaxis.

I feel inclined to ask, if the infants are contracting the bacteria after birth and not in the birth canal, where is it coming from? In the hospital, bacteria is rampant, and even the chemical sterilizing agents used to clean hospitals have been shown to be ineffective in totally wiping out bacteria. It is hard for me to believe that it was introduced to the infants by the mothers after birth; the baby makes it through the birth canal, with the mother's bodily fluids smeared all over it, and still comes out without an infection, only to be introduced to it from normal handling by the mother? I don't think so. I can only conclude it was introduced by the handling of hospital personnel.

Another good reason for home birth, where your baby is already immune to the germs in the environment it is born into.


Did You Know?
Home births have been shown to be safer than hospital birth for healthy moms???
Read more!

We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful... it's that women are strong.
- Laura Stavoe Harm

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