Congenital syphilis can have a major health impact on a baby, but how it affects the baby’s health depends on when syphilis was acquired in pregnancy and if — or when — the mother received treatment for the infection. Syphilis in pregnant women can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or the baby’s death shortly after birth.  Approximately 40% of babies born to women with untreated syphilis can be stillborn or die from the infection as a newborn. Babies born with congenital syphilis can have bone damage, severe anemia, enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice, nerve problems causing blindness or deafness, meningitis, or skin rashes.

Syphilis can be treated effectively with penicillin. Pregnant women with diagnosed syphilis should be treated immediately. Their sex partner(s) should also receive treatment to prevent the mother from becoming re-infected and to improve the health of her partner. Surviving infants exposed to syphilis should be evaluated at birth to assess need for additional treatment, and closely followed post-delivery whether or not treatment was provided.


Number of pregnant women diagnosed with syphilis (any stage), United States1

Number of congenital syphilis cases, United States2

Number of primary and secondary syphilis cases among women aged 15 to 44 years, United States2

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017 Sexually transmitted diseases surveillance. Accessed October 2018.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NCHHSTP AtlasPlus. Accessed June 2020.
Page last reviewed: July 10, 2020