Perinatal infections account for 2%-3% of all congenital anomalies. Some common maternal infections, such as the flu, the common cold, or a stomach virus, will most likely not have any impact on the pregnancy, but there are a few maternal-fetal infections which can result in serious health consequences for your unborn child (NIH).
There are certain types of infections (viral and bacterial) which can be passed in utero, infecting both you and your unborn baby. Infections which are not timely, and properly, treated can lead to problems in fetal development, and may result in death in extreme cases. Some infections pose a greater risk for transmission during the labor and delivery process.
Group B Streptococcus
Group B Strep (GBS) is a bacterial infection which affects up to 25% of all healthy women. It is typically found in the gastrointestinal, vaginal, and/or rectal area; however, it is not a sexually transmitted disease. Generally, there are no symptoms of GBS which is why it can be passed on to the fetus if not treated properly. GBS can spread to a baby during a vaginal delivery if the baby is exposed to, or swallows, fluids containing GBS. The most common complications for the fetus include pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis, but other complications can occur if the baby is exposed to GBS. It is not unusual for a woman to test positive for GBS at certain times, and negative at other times, which is why it is very important for a pregnant woman to be tested between 35-37 weeks of pregnancy. (Birth Injury Guide & American Pregnancy.org).
Syphilis is a sexually-transmitted disease which can be transferred to a fetus during pregnancy because it can cross the placenta. Syphilis transmission can occur anytime during your pregnancy or during the birthing process. Syphilis is an extremely dangerous infection for infants leading to fetal distress, vision and hearing loss, teeth malformations, neurological issues, low birth weight, neonatal death, and stillbirth. The rate of infection of the fetus during pregnancy in cases of untreated syphilis approaches 100%, resulting in a 40% fetal death rate in infected infants (american pregnancy.org).
Syphilis can lie dormant in the body for many years if not treated properly with antibiotics. This is what makes syphilis exceptionally dangerous because you may not even be aware that you are infected. Pregnant women should always be tested for syphilis as soon as possible.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection frequently caused by contact with parasites found in some raw or under-cooked meats, cat feces, and soil. Pregnant women who contract toxoplasmosis may experience flu-like symptoms; however, some pregnant woman may not experience any symptoms at all. Proper precautions should be taken such as washing hands thoroughly, cooking meats completely, washing foods in hot water, and staying away from cat feces, this includes changing the litter box. If toxoplasmosis is transferred to an unborn baby, it can result in intellectual disabilities, hearing loss, and blindness. Antibiotics should be administered to eliminate the infection. In some instances, the infant may continue to receive antibiotic treatment after birth. (Birth Injury Guide & American Pregnancy.org).
Urinary Tract infection
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection in the urethra or the bladder. Symptoms include an urgency to urinate, cloudy urine, pelvic pain, and a burning sensation when urinating. A UTI typically does not usually present any serious problems for an unborn infant. However, if left untreated, a UTI can spread to the kidneys and may cause preterm labor, which can result in a host of other health problems for the infant. UTIs are almost always treated with antibiotics.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a contagious liver disease. It is very dangerous when passed along to a baby during birth. Newborns have approximately a 90% chance of developing lifelong health issues, including liver damage and liver cancer. Pregnant should always be tested as early in the pregnancy as possible. If tested positive for HBV, a vaccination should be administered. If a pregnant woman did not receive early testing and treatment, doctors should make sure to test before delivery so the proper treatment can be administered. The disease can be prevented with early screening during pregnancy and treated with a vaccination after delivery.
Chorioamnionitis is a condition which can affect pregnant women when bacteria, usually found in the vagina, anus, or rectum, infects the membranes which surround the fetus and the amniotic fluid. This can lead to infections in both the mother and fetus and occurs in about 2% of births in the U.S. Among other things, chorioamnionitis can prevent, or limit, the mother’s ability to pass nutrients to the baby. Chorioamnionitis can also lead to premature labor and delivery and result in a myriad of complications for the mother and newborn. Treatment typically involves administering antibiotics. Emergency C-sections may also be indicated.
Maternal Infection Verdicts
Doe v. Roe Hospital
This $5 million confidential settlement arose after Ms. Doe was admitted to a hospital in pre-term labor at 29 weeks gestation. Doe received medication to prevent a premature delivery and was discharged 39 hours after her admission. The day after Does’ discharge, lab results revealed she had an E-coli urinary tract infection and she was positive for Group B strep. The untreated infection spread to Doe’s uterus and caused premature cervical dilation; she went into labor and delivered her baby via C- section within a week. The baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. Doe alleged that the hospital, and numerous healthcare providers, chose not to administer antibiotics before discharging her from the hospital based on her pre-term labor and preliminary lab results, which were available before her discharge.
$26 Million Verdict, New York, 2017
A mother of twin girls alleged that a hospital’s negligence caused the death of one child and left the surviving child deaf and with paralyzed vocal cords. The plaintiff alleged that she developed chorioamnionitis from an untreated cervical infection which led to her premature labor. The suit alleged that the mother’s complaints of cramping and spotting were ignored by her treating physicians despite being symptoms of potential premature labor
If you or your loved one has been injured because a medical professional was negligent in timely and properly treating your medical condition, please call (704) 714-1450 today to make an appointment to speak with a Charlotte Medical Malpractice Attorney, or stop by the office during regular business hours. There is no fee for the initial consultation.