Learning About the Signs of Seizures in Newborns

Skip Navigation

What is a seizure?

Seizures are the body's response to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Some babies may have them in the weeks after birth. A newborn may have a seizure for a few reasons. A lack of oxygen in the baby's brain is a common reason. So is an infection.

What are the signs?

Some signs of a seizure can look like normal movements in a newborn. If a movement is repeated or goes on for several minutes, it may be a sign of a seizure.

Your doctor may use a test to make sure your baby is having seizures. This test may be an electroencephalography (EEG). Or the test may be an amplitude integrated EEG (aEEG).

Signs of a seizure in a newborn include:

  • Muscles jerking in a rhythmic way that doesn't stop when the arm or leg is held.
  • Muscles stiffening for a few seconds or minutes.
  • Head turned to the side.
  • Eyes turning to one side or rolling up.
  • Eyelids blinking or fluttering.
  • Staring.
  • Mouth movements. These may include sucking, smacking, chewing, and the tongue sticking out.
  • Unusual body movements. These movements may look like rowing, swimming, pedaling, thrashing, or struggling.
  • Pauses in breathing.

If you think your baby may be having a seizure, call your doctor right away. Call 911 or other emergency services if your baby also has a fever, movements that last for 10 minutes or more, or a change in their color or breathing.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.