A lot of activity happens immediately after a baby is born, from cuddle time with parents, first feeding and a bath, but one important thing is the application of erythomycin ophthalmic ointment. 

Many parents know erythomycin ointment as this as the “goop” that gets added to a baby’s eyes, but parents might not know the reasoning behind it. 

In the 1900s, the leading cause of blindness was babies contracting gonorrhea or chlamydia in their eyes during the birthing process. Scientists developed an ointment to apply to babies’ eyes immediately after birth which prevented blindness. That ointment – erythomycin – is still used today and, in some states, is against the law for parents to refuse. 

There are pros and cons often discussed in regards to erythomycin. Many believe that if a baby is born via c-section, there is no risk of the child contracting the sexually transmitted diseases, thus, no reason for the ointment to be administered. 

Also, most mothers are screened during pregnancy and treated for gonorrhea or chlamydia if necessary. There are a few side effects to the ointment, including possible short-term eye irritation. The ointment also can make the baby’s vision blurry, which some feel might affect the mother and baby bonding process in the first few minutes after application. 

Most doctors feel the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to the medication. Tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea do occasionally have false negatives, and the ointment is inexpensive, easy to administer and is very effective. 

If you have questions about erythomycin, visit with your OB-GYN or pediatrician to learn more.