Even with the best prenatal care and the best doctors and nurses overseeing a pregnancy, it is still possible to contract an infection before, during or after delivery. Infections are insidious, and can strike without warning. Sometimes, they happen because of one mistake. It is always a good idea to make sure you know what is normal in these situations and what is not, so that you can react accordingly.
The most common infection found in women who have just given birth is called chorioamnionitis or intra-amniotic infection (IAI). IAI happens most often from irregularities in the genital tract, and it affects the amniotic fluid and placenta, as well as the chorion and amnion, which are membranes that surround the embryo as it develops. It occurs in roughly 5% of women at the time of delivery.
Symptoms include fever, a foul-smelling discharge, uterine tenderness, and, most severely, tachycardia (a faster-than-normal heart rate) in both mother and baby. Most often, it will occur if labor is very long; the longer the labor, the more chance there is of bacteria beginning to form in the urinary and genital tracts. This can happen spontaneously, but it is plausible that it could occur as a result of medical mistake – taking longer than one should, for example, to decide to attempt a cesarean delivery instead of a vaginal delivery.
Most of the time, IAI does not result in any long-term issues for mother or child; fertility is usually not compromised and the child will make a full recovery. In rare instances, however, children may develop neurological impairments or chronic physical issues (such as asthma or cerebral palsy).
Another infection often seen at time of delivery is group B streptococcus (GBS). GBS is a bacteria that is actually found in about a quarter of all women, healthy and not. It can, however, cause serious problems, especially for newborns if passed from mother to baby during delivery.
GBS naturally occurs in some women, and if you test positive, it does not mean your child will automatically get sick. GBS most often becomes apparent after unusual labor – if your water breaks early (even if you do not deliver), or if you have a fever or UTI at the time of labor, the risk to pass GBS on to your baby is higher. While the risks to the mother are relatively mild, serious GBS can result in diseases like meningitis in babies, or even cause stillbirth.
GBS and other infections like it (such as endomyometritis, which is a type of sepsis usually seen after cesarean sections) can be difficult to tie to any medical negligence or mistake, because both of them have components that naturally occur within the body. It is easy for a defense attorney to claim that the bacteria in a woman’s body simply reacted to normal obstetric procedures, with no negligence occurring. Tests are performed to show the presence or absence of such bacteria, and it is important that you know the results, both for your own sake and possibly for your unborn child.
If you had an infection at delivery and it resulted in harm to you or your child, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced birth injury attorneys at Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC are well versed in this area of law, and have a long history of success. Contact our Louisville office today for a free consultation.