Infection Errors

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

The interaction between the maternal and fetal immune systems is incredibly complex. The fetus’s system is designed to receive the support it needs from his or her mother while also protecting against potential attack from the mother’s immune system. During the third-term of pregnancy, maternal antibodies move through the placenta into the fetus to protect the baby from infections. This shielding mechanism can lead to irreparable harm to a baby if trusted medical personnel fail to diagnose and properly treat a maternal infection.

Here are some of the most common infections and the possible impact that their transmission can have on your baby.

Bacterial

Babies born with bacterial infections are at risk for medical complications. These can include:

  • Difficulty breathing;
  • High temperatures;
  • Eating issues;
  • Crankiness and fussiness;
  • Paralysis;
  • Seizures;
  • Mental impairment;
  • Kidney and heart problems;
  • Blindness;
  • Blood infections;
  • In some cases, even death.

Bacteria, like Group B Streptococcus and Listeria monocytogenes, are common in mothers. It is important for a doctor to test a mother for the presence of these bacteria and treat accordingly if they are present. Treatment includes intravenous antibiotics during delivery to ensure that the bacteria are not transmitted to the baby.

Fungal

Invasive fungal infections occur in approximately seven percent of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The occurrence of fungal infection increases as the baby’s birth weight decreases. Prompt treatment with antifungal medication can prevent the spread of the infection and dramatically improve long-term outlook.

Parasitic

Toxoplasmosis is the most common form of parasitic infection that is transmitted to the fetus. Toxoplasma gondii are present in cat feces, which is why pregnant women are cautioned away from cleaning litter boxes.

Symptoms of the infection include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes;
  • Fever;
  • Not feeling well;
  • Sore throat;
  • Blurred vision.

A doctor can diagnose the infection by conducting a blood test and looking for antibodies against the parasite. A woman who has contracted the infection before getting pregnant will not pass the infection to her baby, but a woman who contracts the infection while pregnant can transmit the infection, which can lead to congenital toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis infection can lead to blindness, liver and spleen enlargement, jaundice, seizures, and intellectual impairment. Spiramycin administered during the pregnancy will prevent transmission to the baby.

Sepsis

This severe bacterial infection begins in the blood and spreads throughout the body. In infants, it is known as sepsis neonatorum or neonatal septicemia. Sepsis can lead to severe injury to the kidneys, lungs, brain, hearing, and vision. It is most common in infants up to three months old. Streptococcus frequently is the cause of sepsis in infants. An increased likelihood of infection can result from:

  • Premature rupture of the amniotic sac;
  • Rupture of the amniotic sac very early in labor during the delivery process;
  • A lengthy and difficult delivery;
  • Uterine or placental infection;
  • Maternal fever during the delivery;
  • Maternal bleeding.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Having a sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy can lead to serious complications for the baby. Many sexually transmitted diseases are passed from the mother to the infant during delivery. Syphilis can pass through the placenta to the infant. The key to preventing long-term harm to the baby is early detection and treatment. Sexually transmitted diseases can be detected from blood or vaginal secretions depending on the type of disease.

Viral Infection

These infections can be passed through the mother’s placenta and often lead to impairment of growth and development. The doctor can perform a form of screening, known as TORCH to detect the most common viruses, specifically:

  • Toxoplasmosis;
  • Other viruses;
  • Rubella;
  • Cytomegalovirus;
  • Herpes simplex.

Neuroimaging studies of the infant’s brain shortly after delivery may show congenital brain lesions that are indicative of infection. Viral infections may also include arboviruses. Hosts such as birds, rodents and pigs carry these types of viruses, which are then transferred to mosquitoes that feed on them. Thus, humans are more prone to infection should they be bitten by a mosquito carrying an arbovirus. Examples of arboviruses include West Nile Virus and certain forms of viral encephalitis.

Who Is Responsible?

In order to be responsible for the birth injury caused by the infection, the medical practitioner must be shown to have acted in the following manner:

  • The medical professional failed to diagnose the infection in a timely manner;
  • The medical professional failed to perform ante partum testing to determine fetal wellbeing;
  • The medical professional did not recognize and properly manage fetal distress;
  • The harm could have been prevented or mitigated with earlier detection and treatment of the infection or earlier delivery of the baby.

The primary goal of Stern Law, PLLC is to educate families about their rights and guide them through the often intimidating journey of birth injury litigation and medical malpractice. Establishing cause, answering questions, and helping your child is our main concern. Call us for free today at (800)462-5772 for assistance.