Pregnant women are vulnerable to infection in the hospital during delivery.
They spend long hours in labor, sometimes being prodded and checked every hour during later labor progress. Physical examinations to check cervical dilation and readiness for the baby’s delivery consist of doctors or nurses inserting fingers and possibly medical devices to calculate the cervical opening. Unfortunately, crowded hospitals with too many patients, poor hygienic practices, and medical equipment can cause bacterial contamination and a mother’s infection. Maternal infection is one of the leading causes of maternal and fetal mortality, and this is not limited to infections during pregnancy. In fact, a post-admission infection during childbirth is among the major sources of maternal mortality in the United States.
When attentive staff detect infections early, they can clear the bacterial infection with antibiotics, significantly improving the prognosis for mother and child. When left untreated or an antibiotic-resistant strain appears, however, the outcome may be worse. Even if she does not die, an infected mother can be severely sick and may have to extend her hospital stay for far longer than expected. And if complications from an infection arise, the mother may go home with long-term, even permanent, chronic pain and infertility. In addition, pelvic infections can damage a woman’s reproductive organs when chronic inflammation creates blockages in the fallopian tubes.
Causes of Infection in Women Giving Birth
Although maternal propensities to infection, diabetes, and obesity can cause infections, labor complications can also result in infection. For example, when a pregnant woman’s membranes rupture prematurely, or cesarean birth is necessary, a pregnant woman may contract a disease while in the hospital. Most medical professionals treat maternal infection with antibiotics, and some believe that routine use of antibiotics reduces infection risk. However, the counter-risk is producing antibiotic-resistant conditions from the overuse of antibiotics.
Pregnant Women can Develop MRSA while in the Hospital
One such bacteria, MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), common in hospitalized patients, can enter a pregnant woman’s body through a break in the skin, such as when she undergoes cesarean birth. When that happens, the bacteria can cause infection at the surgical site. Luckily, doctors can detect MRSA with a simple test before a pregnant woman goes in for surgery. However, MRSA screening is not standard unless the woman previously had a MRSA infection or has open wounds or a urinary catheter. The treatment for both baby and mother with MRSA is antibiotics.
Risk of Sepsis during and after Delivery
Other than MRSA, sepsis (a severe bacterial infection) of the uterus may develop during delivery. For example, Streptococcus A (GAS) can cause severe infections that appear as sore throats or skin irritations. However, an infected patient may show no signs at all. GAS spreads by touching or inhaling infected nose or throat secretions or open wounds, such as when a woman delivers a baby and damages vaginal tissue. Over time, the infection grows more severe and can spread to nearby ovaries and fallopian tubes or travel through the bloodstream. A doctor whose pregnant patient begins to run a fever, develop chills, or experience abdominal pain should suspect sepsis. Other symptoms include malodorous vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, and dizziness.
Sepsis may require a longer treatment. The patient must stay in the hospital for intravenous infusion of antibiotics if the infection appears during or soon after delivery. If the infection arose during the delivery, but symptoms do not manifest until after hospital discharge, the patient should return to receive treatment.
The Best Treatment for Post-Admission Infection among Mothers is Always Prevention
Catching an infection at the beginning means less opportunity for the condition to spread. Early treatment yields the best prognosis. Once a doctor admits a laboring patient, they must beware of the most common causes of sepsis or any infection. They must be on guard for infection caused by C-section, premature membranes rupture, prolonged labor, numerous vaginal examinations, skin ruptures due to delivery, placental fragments in the womb, staff, or visitors with sore throats or colds, and poor hygiene (infrequent or insufficient hand-washing). All these factors may result in infection or sepsis, which requires immediate treatment. If a doctor knows that his pregnant patient has an infection, is at high risk for infection, or has a history of infection, they can run an antibiotics trial after normal childbirth.
Hospital Liability for Mother’s Infection when Delivering a Child
When a pregnant patient contracts a debilitating infection due to hospital negligence, the hospital, doctors, or other medical staff may be liable for negligence. For example, a doctor in a busy, poorly funded hospital may not take the extra precautions to ensure cleanliness and a sterile environment. And busy hospitals may be dealing with constant emergencies. As such, they rush through systematic procedures to ensure hand-washing is effective, hospital equipment remains sanitized so that bacteria cannot live on surfaces, and that administrative and medical staff with respiratory illnesses stay home or stay away from patients. Other instances of negligence include performing too many manual checks on a long-laboring woman and tracking how long a woman labors after her waters have broken.
Hospital workers, from doctors and nurses to administrative staff and lab workers, are exposed to pathogens of all sorts just from working in a hospital where patients expose them to disease and infection. If personnel do not follow hygienic procedures and protocols strictly or no protocols are in place, the hospital and staff may be liable to patients who become ill. Additionally, the response time to detect and treat infections may cause infection or worsening infection that leads to permanent damage to a pregnant patient, such as infertility. A woman who can never have another child or who must undergo expensive fertility treatments to expand her family due to medical negligence may have a cause of action against those responsible for causing and failing to treat her infection during labor and delivery in the hospital.
Need an Attorney for Hospital Negligence with Infection during Delivery in New Jersey
If that pregnant patient who suffered prolonged illness or infertility due to a preventable infection is you or someone you love, understand that you have a remedy to your financial and emotional losses. By retaining a highly qualified medical malpractice and birth injury attorney, you can file a claim against the medical providers, hospital, or both, that caused your injuries from sepsis, MRSA, or bacterial infection that developed during labor and delivery. Short of litigating a malpractice lawsuit at trial, skilled attorneys can also negotiate a settlement with the responsible parties so that you obtain the compensation you deserve. And if you cannot settle your claim, you can proceed to trial with confidence that a trusted, knowledgeable attorney with medical expert contacts and expansive experience handling suits against providers in the medical field is advocating for you.
If you or a loved one suffered post-admission infection amidst childbirth in New Jersey, our team of attorneys can assist you in fighting for the compensation you deserve for your preventable delivery injuries. It is only fair and just that the responsible pay for their mistakes and support your recovery. Call (866)-708-8617 for a free birth malpractice legal consultation today.