Birth Injuries Due to Infection

Infant, child in intensive care unit after heart surgery.

When you think of medical malpractice, infection probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. We tend to think of infections as something that just happens, like catching a cold. But even if catching an infection is unavoidable, failure of a doctor to identify or treat the infection can lead to disastrous results. This is especially true for pregnant women, in whom infections can lead to serious birth injuries if they remain unchecked.

The joy of a healthy pregnancy, and the anticipation of a healthy baby, can be dashed with the discovery of a serious infection. Learn about some of the maternal infections that most commonly cause birth injuries, and what can be done to prevent bad outcomes for mothers and babies.

Maternal Infections That Cause Birth Injuries

Some infections are relatively harmless or mild when the sufferer is not pregnant. But during pregnancy, those same infections can cause grave risk to an infant. Particularly dangerous infections during pregnancy include:

  • Group B Strep: This infection is so common that roughly 25% of women in the U.S. carry it at any given time, usually without symptoms. However, if untreated, it can be transmitted to a baby during pregnancy or birth, potentially disrupting neurological development or causing meningitis or bloodstream infections in newborns. For this reason, women should be tested for Group B strep at 36-37 weeks of pregnancy and treated with antibiotics if they test positive.
  • Hepatitis B: Women who are infected with Hepatitis B can transmit it to their infant during childbirth. This infection in an infant typically causes serious health issues in the long term, including possible liver failure or cancer.
  • Toxoplasmosis: Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasitic infection that can be picked up from cat feces when cleaning a litterbox, from soil, and from meat that is not properly cooked. While many people carry this parasite without symptoms, if a pregnant woman transmits a toxoplasmosis infection to her infant, it can disrupt development and cause serious issues such as blindness, brain damage, or hearing loss.
  • Listeriosis: Listeria is a common bacteria that causes flu-like symptoms; it is often found in raw foods. Most people with listeria infections suffer minimal effects, but in pregnant women, listeriosis can disrupt the fetus’s access to nutrients, leading to brain damage and death.
  • Varicella/Chicken Pox: Varicella, the virus that causes chicken pox, is not usually a problem for pregnant women who have previously been infected or had the varicella vaccine. However, unvaccinated women who contract the virus during pregnancy can transmit it to their fetus, causing serious birth defects.
  • Rubella/German Measles: Most people have been vaccinated for this virus, making infections rare. However, because of the serious effects of an infection on a fetus, pregnant women should be tested early in pregnancy to make sure they have been vaccinated or are immune. Rubella can cause deafness, heart defects, developmental disabilities, and other serious issues, including death of the fetus.
  • Syphilis: This bacterial infection is a well-known sexually transmitted infection, but it is possible for the infection to remain dormant in the body for years without causing obvious symptoms. That can be a disaster for a pregnant woman, as syphilis can cause devastating health conditions for a fetus, including blindness, deafness, abnormal formation of teeth, heart defects, and death. Syphilis can be transmitted to a fetus during pregnancy through the placenta, or during birth through vaginal sores in the mother. Therefore, it is important for doctors to test women for syphilis as early as possible during pregnancy.

What to Do if Your Doctor Failed to Detect or Treat an Infection

While the infections above can cause permanent, devastating effects for mothers and their babies, most of them can be prevented with proper testing, diagnosis, and treatment. The knowledge that a tragedy could have been avoided makes it all the more devastating when a baby suffers a life-changing birth injury.

A baby that would otherwise have been born healthy suffers a seriously diminished quality of life, and may need lifelong care, after a birth injury due to infection. What’s more, the family’s income may suffer after a disabling birth injury, as one parent often needs to leave their employment in order to care for their severely disabled child. It’s not a stretch to say that a serious birth injury changes life forever, not only for the injured child, but for parents and siblings.

If your child was born with health issues that resulted from a failure to diagnose a maternal infection, or failure to properly treat infection, you may be entitled to financial help from the responsible medical providers. Your damages may be significant because of the level of care your child needs and your inability to work outside the home.

Unfortunately, you only have a limited time in which to file a claim for medical malpractice, so it’s important to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Once the statute of limitations on your claim expires, you cannot file a lawsuit, no matter how obvious the doctor’s liability or how great your damages.

To learn more about maternal infections and birth injuries, contact Huegli Fraser to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Birth Injuries

Blog Disclaimer

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.