Chorioamnionitis: Intrauterine Infection
New Jersey Lawyers for Failure to Diagnose, Treat, & Mismanaged Chorioamnionitis
If you are pregnant with a fever or signs of infection, you want to find out the reason, as there may be cause for concern. While fever may be your body’s way to fight a harmless infection, such as a cold or virus, it may also suggest something more dangerous to you or your baby. One such danger is an infection in the amniotic sac and membranes that surround the growing fetus, which can endanger the life of the child and cause serious complications for the mother as well. Chorioamnionitis, otherwise known as intrauterine infection, is an inflammation-caused or bacterial infection of the amniotic fluid, the membranes surrounding the fetus, the uterine walls, or the placenta, or some collection of these. Problematically, some pregnant women with this condition have no symptoms at all. And yet the complications and harm resulting from this serious infection can be extreme.
Given the severity of the potential complications, doctors must be able to identify and treat chorioamnionitis quickly to prevent poor maternal and newborn outcomes. Once detected, neonatal caretakers must be ready to administer antibiotics to the fetus and take immediate action to protect both lives involved. Failure to diagnose, untreated, or mishandled chorioamnionitis infections affecting the pregnant woman or her baby may be cause for malpractice lawsuit. If you or your child suffered harm due to negligence with intrauterine infection, our team of attorneys in New Jersey can help. Contact us at 866-708-8617 or describe your case and get a free legal consultation to find out more about your options.
Causes & Risk Factors for Chorioamnionitis
Chorioamnionitis, or intrauterine infection, may arise from several sources. Those laboring women who have had multiple manual examinations to check the cervix dilation or who have fetal or uterine monitoring are susceptible to infection. Additionally, the environment of the genital tract may contain bacteria that travels to the uterus and causes infection. Long labors and early rupture of the membranes may also lead to increased risk of infection that invades the amniotic fluid or the uterus in general, as well as lifestyle choices. For instance, smoking, substance abuse, or obesity increase the risk of intrauterine infection. Other factors include a short cervix, making infection more likely, and the use of epidural anesthesia or hormones used to soften the cervix. It occurs most often with preterm labor, younger mothers under age 21, and women with a history of infections. This condition typically develops during end-term labor, but can occur before labor as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Intrauterine Infection
The problem with chorioamnionitis is that some women may not experience symptoms of the condition. If the infection develops during labor, the woman relies on the doctor to recognize signs of infection as opposed to testing for infection beforehand. Women who do have symptoms suffer from fever, an achy uterus, low blood pressure, discolored amniotic fluid, and a fast heartbeat. The fetus may have tachycardia (fast heartbeat) also. These are the signs doctors use to make a clinical assessment of the condition, and they should be tipped off to look for infection by the total picture of risk factors, prolonged labor, or premature labor.
Diagnosis and Treating Chorioamnionitis
A physical exam followed by tests to confirm the condition is all it takes for diagnosis. Prior to labor, amniocentesis, when a needle is inserted into the amniotic sac to withdraw a sampling of amniotic fluid, can detect high white count levels in the fluid. This factor, coupled with low sugar, means an infection is present.
More importantly, the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the treatment, which consists of lowering the fever and administering antibiotics to eradicate the infection in the mother, so the fetus does not catch it. When a mother has this type of infection, early diagnosis is the best protection. Aside from restricting the number of vaginal examinations and uterine or fetal monitoring, your doctor can screen you for certain bacteria as early as your second trimester to check for inflamed vaginal tissue, indicative of a bacterial infection, or prior to delivery, for group B streptococcus infection.
Managing Labor with Intrauterine Infection
For the mother, chorioamnionitis can affect labor, requiring doctors to assist labor with labor-inducing drugs, perform a c-section, or assist delivery with birthing instruments, such as forceps or vacuums. Birth-assistance instruments can present their own set of problems, especially if they are used too early or inexpertly. Newborns can suffer anything from cuts and bruises to brain damage from the faulty use of forceps and vacuums extractors, and mothers can also suffer tears and cuts. For this reason, a cesarean section may be required to protect the baby from a vaginal delivery that would further infect the baby or cause birth trauma. Aside from the necessity for medical intervention, chorioamnionitis can cause a host of severe complications.
How Chorioamnionitis can Affect Mothers and Babies
Reacting too late to infection signs can lead to grave complications requiring emergency treatment. These range from excessive maternal bleeding after delivery, to serious infections such as peritonitis or sepsis. Some women develop respiratory problems. The intrauterine infection can spread to the bloodstream, a condition called bacteremia, or to the lining of the uterus. Sepsis is a major risk for mothers. Another complication is hemorrhaging post-delivery, which can lead to blood clots to the lungs or pelvis.
In addition, babies born to mothers with chorioamnionitis may suffer from a host of injuries and conditions, causing them to develop pneumonia, sepsis (severe infection), and meningitis (brain or spinal cord infection), any of which can be deadly. Typically, premature babies are more susceptible to blood infections from chorioamnionitis. Long-term injuries to the infant include bronchial respiratory disorders and cerebral palsy, among others. Overall, the potential infant complications from chorioamnionitis include:
- Premature birth and related conditions
- Neonatal sepsis
- Infant brain damage
- Chronic lung disease
- Cerebral palsy
- Cognitive disabilities
- Developmental delays
Overall, the earlier the diagnosis and proper treatment, the less the likelihood of complications.
Chorioamnionitis Negligence and Medical Mistakes
While under 5% of all birth complications are associated with chorioamnionitis, experienced obstetricians must know the signs and appropriate treatment of the condition. They must manage infections in pregnancy and labor correctly and make some timely and decisive calls, such as when to deliver the baby by c-section or administer antibiotics to a newborn or in utero to ensure infections do not lead to brain damage. Also, balancing diligent monitoring of the fetus for distress while not being overly invasive is important. Failing to recognize the signs of chorioamnionitis can be the source of a medical malpractice claim. Although racing heartbeat of the fetus could be due to other reasons like using Pitocin to induce labor, the totality of the circumstances needs to be assessed to protect the mother and fetus by coming up with the right diagnosis.
While medical doctors often disagree about whether cesarean birth is always necessary in each case, preventing the risk of infection to the fetus is paramount. When intrauterine infection exists, it is too late when the newborn suffers permanent damage from the infection after a prolonged vaginal birth. The critical decision about whether and when to deliver the baby quickly via c-section must be made before exposure. Likewise, if a mother has been treated previously during her pregnancy for infection, both the obstetrician and pediatrician should be on high alert at and after delivery to ensure the baby is treated. The costs of treating a child with cerebral palsy or brain damage from infection is high, and may be lifelong.
Call for Legal Help with Your Chorioamnionitis Malpractice Claim in NJ
You do not have to compromise on your child’s medical care or your own. A successful outcome in an intrauterine infection malpractice lawsuit can provide you with finances for your child’s therapeutic and medical needs. If you and your child have been harmed due to untreated or delayed treatment of chorioamnionitis, call 866-708-8617 today for assistance from a skilled birth injury and pregnancy malpractice attorney. We are conveniently located near you in New Jersey and available for a free consultation.
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- Intrapartum Management of Intraamniotic Infection, ACOG
- Chorioamnionitis Overview, Medscape
- Chorioamnionitis: Infection in Pregnancy, Healthline