ABSTRACT Syphilis is a public health problem, especially in pregnant women, due to the risk of transmission to the fetus and the involvement of the central nervous system, causing neurosyphilis. A case-control study was carried out to analyze the variables associated with neurosyphilis in Brazilian newborns of pregnant women with syphilis admitted for childbirth. Newborns were submitted to treponemal and non-treponemal tests, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, and long bone radiography. Newborns diagnosed with neurosyphilis and congenital syphilis were defined as cases and controls, respectively. The length of hospitalization and mean cost of neurosyphilis treatment were also evaluated. Twenty-one cases of newborns with neurosyphilis and 42 controls with congenital syphilis were included in the study. Out of 63 pregnant women with syphilis, 95.2% (60/63) received prenatal care, 74.6% (47/63) were diagnosed with syphilis during this period, 31.9% (15/47) underwent treponemic tests, 80.8% (38/47) were treated with penicillin and only 46.8% (22/47) of the partners received the treatment. Clinical complications such as low birth weight were observed in 12.7% (8/63) of the newborns. About 50.8% (32/63) of the newborns were hospitalized due to syphilis complications and each case of neurosyphilis spent at least US$ 881.48 on treatment and hospitalization. The results showed that the prenatal coverage is not sufficient to prevent neurosyphilis. The late diagnosis of syphilis in pregnant women and inadequate follow-up of sexual partners may favor the vertical transmission of T. pallidum in pregnant Brazilian women. Thus, improving the quality of health services is important for a more effective control of neurosyphilis.