Maternal Infection

New Jersey Maternal Infection Lawyers

Medical Malpractice and Pregnancy Attorneys in Passaic County, New Jersey

Pregnancy is an extremely sensitive time, with two lives hanging in the balance. As doctors continuously monitor the growth and wellbeing of the developing child, it is equally important to monitor the health of the mother. A variety of complications can threaten the health of the mother and adversely impact the health of her child, as the two lives are intricately connected during this critical period. Maternal infections are a prime example of such a phenomenon. If a woman contracts an infection during pregnancy, there is a significant chance that this infection will be transmitted, either during gestation or during labor and delivery. These conditions can quickly progress and become life-threatening. In fact, undiagnosed and untreated maternal infections can result premature labor and stillbirths, as well as birth defects, developmental delays, serious illness, and even the death of the child. When doctors fail to identify and treat maternal infection in a timely manner, they can be held liable through medical malpractice litigation.

At Fronzuto Law Group, our firm is dedicated to advocating for mothers and babies who suffer harm at the hands of medical professionals. From birth injuries to pediatric malpractice, we use extensive research, evidence-based strategies, and extensive litigation experience to achieve maximum compensation for our clients. For instance, we recently achieved $1,650,000.00 on behalf of a female client who suffered paraplegia after doctors failed to identify an epidural abscess. At our firm, there is no medical condition or medical malpractice case too complex. In fact, we embrace the most challenging cases and purposely limit our caseload to provide unparalleled focus and attention to each of our clients. If you or someone you love has sustained some form of injury, and you believe medical negligence may have played a role, contact our Passaic County offices at 973-435-4551 to discuss your potential claim. We provide cost-free initial consultations and represent clients throughout New Jersey.

Maternal Infections During Pregnancy: The Basics

Maternal infections begin in the mother; however, they can be transmitted to the fetus during fetal development or during labor and delivery. In the first trimester of pregnancy, maternal infections can cause serious illness in the mother and result in miscarriages or birth defects for the fetus. Other maternal infections can result in preterm labor and serious complications for the baby once born. Still other maternal infections are passed from the mother to the baby when the mother’s water breaks, or during delivery when the infant becomes exposed to maternal blood. This is known as perinatal or vertical transmission.

There are specific junctures during pregnancy at which physicians must test for abnormalities. They must also be attuned to the mother’s symptoms to identify potential complications such as maternal infection. In order to diagnose maternal infections, doctors may use a variety of tests and procedures, including: maternal blood tests, spinal taps, ultrasounds, amniocentesis (testing of the amniotic fluid), and cordocentesis or percutaneous blood sampling (testing of the umbilical cord). Specific treatment for maternal infections is determined based on the circumstances of each unique case. Some available treatment options include: antibiotics, corticosteroids, antiviral medications, and nutritional support.

Symptoms of Infection in Pregnant Women

A maternal infection can be transmitted from mother to child through the bloodstream, the placenta, or the birth canal at any stage of the pregnancy or birth. An improperly managed maternal infection has the potential to result in some of the most serious birth injuries. If doctors fail to diagnose the infection at an early enough stage to treat it before birth, it can result in catastrophic injury to the baby. This is why doctors, nurses, and other members of medical staff should monitor the mother throughout the pregnancy and identify the signs and symptoms of an infection while it can still be treated. Some of the clinical signs of infection in pregnant women include:

  • Maternal fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • An increased heart rate for the mother
  • An increased fetal heart rate
  • Urinary complications
  • Excessive sweating by the mother
  • Tenderness in the uterus
  • A high white blood cell count

When the mother does not show any signs or symptoms of a maternal infection, doctors may need to use a variety of tests and procedures, such as testing the amniotic fluid through an amniocentesis, performing an ultrasound, testing the blood in the umbilical cord, performing a spinal tap, and studying maternal blood and maternal urine to determine whether the mother has higher-than-usual white blood cells, protein, leukocytes, or glucose. These kinds of lab tests are particularly common when the mother goes into premature labor, as it may be a sign that the mother is suffering from a dangerous infection.

Common Maternal Infections

Some of the common maternal infections that can be transmitted from mother to baby include:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV): This is the most predominant infection transmitted to a fetus. Once the virus is passed to the baby, it will remain in the body for life. In the worst cases, a CMV infection in the child can lead to death. 
  • Chorioamnionitis: This is a pregnancy infection that occurs in the placenta and that disrupts the transfer of nutrients from the mother to the baby. When a pregnant woman gets chorioamnionitis, the mother can go into premature labor.
  • Villitis: When the membranes covering the surface of the placenta become inflamed, the baby may not be capable of receiving sufficient nutrients from the mother.
  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): This is an infection in the mother’s bladder or kidneys that can cause premature birth and result in significant damage to the baby. UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections that occur in pregnant women.
  • E. coli: When Escherichia coli is present in the mother’s vagina, the baby may be exposed to the bacterium during labor and delivery. This exposure can cause neonatal sepsis and meningitis.
  • Chicken pox and shingles: The varicella-zoster virus causes both chicken pox and shingles. Since a newborn baby has not previously had chickenpox, they are highly susceptible when exposed to the contagious virus.
  • Toxoplasmosis: When transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, this parasitic disease can cause brain inflammation, lung damage, and eye problems for the child. In adults, toxoplasmosis is a foodborne illness that occurs most commonly as a result of eating undercooked meat.
  • Mumps: A baby with mumps can suffer from swollen parotid glands in the cheeks. If left untreated, mumps can also cause inflammation in the child’s brain.
  • Measles: Baby measles, also known as roseola infantum, is a highly contagious viral illness that can lead to lung infection and swelling of the brain.
  • Rubella: Mothers with rubella can transfer the virus to the baby during the first trimester and cause birth defects that include deafness, cataracts, and intellectual disabilities.
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis: An inflammation of the membranes around the baby’s brain and spinal cord is particularly dangerous because newborns may not be capable of fighting off the infection without prompt and effective antibiotic treatment.
  • Hepatitis B and C: The hepatitis B virus, an infection of the liver, is initially caused in the mother through sexual activity or sharing contaminated needles, and it is then transmitted to the newborn baby during pregnancy. The hepatitis C virus, an infection of the blood that also attacks the liver, can be transmitted from mother to baby by exposure to infected blood during pregnancy.
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV): The herpes simplex virus can be transmitted from the mother to the baby during a vaginal birth when the infant comes into contact with herpes blisters in the birth canal.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases: When a mother has an STD such as HIV, AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia, or gonorrhea, the child can develop a life-threatening blood infection, go blind, or suffer some other serious injury.
  • Group B Streptococci (GSB): A bacterial infection in the gut and the genital tract that can cause brain damage and other severe injuries to the newborn. In the worst cases, the child can die due to GBS because the baby is unable to fight off the infection.
  • Influenza:  If the mother has the flu during pregnancy and it goes untreated, the baby may be at greater risk of birth defects.
  • Epstein-Barr virus: The Epstein-Barr virus causes pediatric mononucleosis, and the child will carry the virus for the rest of their life.

Potential Complications of Maternal Infections

A maternal infection can have devastating consequences for both the mother and the unborn child. That’s why it is absolutely crucial for doctors to detect and treat an infection in a pregnant woman as soon as possible. Timely treatment is important because the more time that passes, the more damage that can be done: infections can cause birth defects and lead to severe injury, illness, and permanent disability for the child. In many cases, immediate treatment can ultimately save the life of the unborn child. Additionally, diagnosing and treating the infection makes it less likely that the child will need to be placed in neonatal intensive care after birth.

Unfortunately, not all maternal infections are effectively diagnosed and treated in time. A poorly managed maternal infection can lead to preterm labor, miscarriage, and stillbirth. If left untreated, a maternal infection can cause serious health complications for the child, including brain damage, cognitive impairments, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

Effectively managing and treating a maternal infection often involves providing the mother with antibiotics, corticosteroids, antiviral medications, and additional nutrients. By administering certain antibiotics, doctors can often make sure that the infection subsides and there is no longer a significant risk of the mother transmitting the infection to the child. Sometimes, however, doctors may need to expedite delivery by inducing labor and performing an emergency C-section in order to ensure that the mother and the child avoid permanent damage as a result of maternal infection.

Contact our NJ Maternal Infection Injury Lawyers for Additional Information

If you or your child suffered harm as a result of an undiagnosed or untreated maternal infection in New Jersey, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more about the avenues that may be available to you, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group at 973-435-4551 or toll free at 888-409-0816 for a free initial consultation.

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