The application of silver nitrate or a similar antibiotic ointment such as tetracycline or erythromycin into the eyes of newborn babies just minutes after birth is another routine newborn procedure commonly performed in the United States.
The routine administration of eye ointment is required in most instances by state law on the grounds of preventing blindness from exposure to maternal gonorrhea during birth.
The glaring flaw in this logic is that STD screening is also standard procedure as part of prenatal care. Even if a pregnant woman has screened negative for gonorrhea earlier in her pregnancy, the law assumes infidelity during pregnancy that will result in repeated exposure to STDs.
In addition, eye ointment doesn't have a 100% success rate in preventing blindness. As a result, some hospital policies dictate injecting every newborn with penicillin at birth. However, this practice helps breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria and puts the infant at risk of allergic reaction while in their most vulnerable state.
1. Choose delayed administration.
2. Request a non-irritating eye ointment, such as tetracycline.
3. Refuse the procedure if it is not state law and you know you don't have an STD.
4. Determine the penalty for refusal (sometimes a $5 fine) and refuse it then.
Page Last Modified by Catherine Beier, MS, CBE
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