Summary: This case illustrates 2 main points. Firstly, fetal infection can mimic exactly both the immediate and delayed signs of perinatal asphyxia. Secondly, the placenta may hold the key to the diagnosis of sepsis which may be made difficult in the neonate by labour ward practices such as the use of intrapartum and immediate newborn antibiotics. We strongly support the recommendation that newborn blood and fetal membrane cultures should always be obtained in babies with a diagnosis of ‘intrapartum asphyxia and fetal distress’ (1). To this we would add the recommendation that placental histology be performed in these circumstances.