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RCOG statement: NICE launch new quality standard on the use of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections in newborn babies

News 19 December 2014

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued a new quality standard today which sets out priorities for healthcare professionals on the use of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections in newborn babies.

Infections in newborn babies are a serious cause of ill health and can be life-threatening. One in 10 deaths of babies in the first month of life is caused by an infection. In England and Wales, over 49,000 babies will be admitted to hospital with an infection each year and over 5,000 babies are born with infection.

The quality standard includes six statements to help reduce newborn deaths and improve the treatment of pregnant women and babies who need antibiotics for an infection, including:

  • Thoroughly assessing pregnant women and newborn babies to identify any clinical signs that put a newborn at risk of infection
  • Offering a preventative course of antibiotics to women as soon as possible during labour if they are at risk of passing an infection on to their newborn
  • Administering antibiotics within 1 hour if it is decided that a newborn needs treatment, even if test results are yet to come through

Commenting on the NICE quality standard, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Ronnie Lamont, said:

“The RCOG is pleased to endorse this new quality standard issued by NICE. The standard recommends that pregnant women whose babies are at risk of neonatal infection should be offered antibiotics as soon as possible during the intrapartum period. Risk factors can include: a mother who has had a previous baby with a Group B streptococcal infection and a urinary tract infection or positive bacterial swab in the current pregnancy.

“In addition, the standard emphasises that both pregnant women and newborn babies should receive a comprehensive clinical assessment for the risks or signs and symptoms of early-onset neonatal infection.

“Neonatal infection affects around 8 of every 1000 births and 71 of every 1000 neonatal admissions. It is a significant cause of mortality and morbidity in newborn babies. It is our role as healthcare professionals to identify women and babies at risk of infection and prescribe appropriate antibiotics quickly and effectively in order to save the lives of both women and newborn babies.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email

To view the RCOG Patient Information on group B streptococcus (GBS) infection in newborn babies, please click here.