A mother with the virus may not know she has it until tested for it because she may not have symptoms. However, she can pass the virus to her baby as a carrier and develop liver damage, failure, and cancer over time. The virus is transmissible through blood and other bodily liquids. Moreover, pregnant women with the condition may be more likely to miscarry, deliver prematurely, develop high blood pressure, and experience placental abruption and restricted fetal growth.
Thus, when a pregnant woman is positive for the virus, it is nearly guaranteed that her baby will be infected. Fortunately, standard medical practice includes screening pregnant women for hepatitis B at the first prenatal appointment to reduce the transmission risk. A simple blood test detects the condition. Once diagnosed, an obstetrician can plan for prenatal and post-natal treatment strategies. Some physicians test for Hepatitis B again as delivery approaches.
What Happens if a Pregnant Woman has Hepatitis B
Babies of women who test positive for the virus receive the first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine within 12 to 24 hours of birth, which significantly lowers the risk of contracting the virus. The second dose occurs one or two months later, and the third at six months of age. Before the baby reaches one, their pediatrician will draw blood to test the baby for hepatitis B infection.
Alternatively, antiviral treatment in late pregnancy for infected women can also reduce the transmission risk. Still, prenatal treatment and post-natal vaccination are the global recommendations to protect the newborn. Safeguarding an infant through pre- and post-natal remedies allows a mother and baby to enjoy breastfeeding safely and rest assured that the baby will not experience long-term hepatitis B effects.
Medical Professionals Duty of Care to Test, Diagnose, and Prevent Hepatitis B at Birth
90% of Hep B infections are preventable with the appropriate precautions and treatment from the start of a pregnancy. When standard protocols are in place, a newborn is unlikely to suffer chronic infection from the virus. Inversely, failing to follow standard medical practices endangers the mother and baby. Thus, when hospital staff mistakenly records a negative Hep B test result for the mother when it is positive, the newborn does not get the vaccination within hours of birth. When the mistake is uncovered, it may be too late for the baby’s health.
Likewise, a failure to test for the virus at the first prenatal visit or pre-delivery can lead to transmission of the virus to the baby, who may not get the first vaccination dose until a month or two later. Such failures may be due to poor communication, physician fatigue, missing protocols at a medical facility, or other reasons. Another negligent incident may involve the proper testing at the beginning and end of pregnancy but not the initial vaccination soon after birth. Administering the wrong test (Hep B surface antibody rather than Hep B surface antigen) can also yield disastrous results.
Sometimes, the error occurs in the transference of the newborn from one hospital department to another. For example, hospital staff will transfer a premature baby born to a Hep B-positive mother to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in another part of the hospital. The NICU staff may commit an error in not checking the records to see if the mother tested positive for the virus. Thus, the premature baby receives care for prematurity but not the initial Hep B birth vaccination.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim for Your Child’s Hepatitis B Birth Injury
Hospitals that routinely vaccinate babies with the first dose of the Hep B vaccination are more likely to avoid the results of human error in recording or reviewing records. Strict adherence to protocols and impeccable communication and review can avoid many mistakes. When medical professionals do not live up to the accepted standards of practice, they harm patients, including expectant mothers and innocent babies. Medical negligence such as this leads to unnecessary pain, suffering, and financial losses, which can be catastrophic.
Parents of a child born with Hep B may have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim seeking reimbursement for the medical expenses and other economic losses suffered due to their child’s illness. They may need continued financial assistance to provide for their child’s continuing health needs and accommodations for daily living with a chronic disease.
Discuss Your Baby’s Hepatitis B Birth Injury Case to Find out if You May be Entitled to Compensation in New Jersey
Parents of children with acute or chronic hepatitis B due to medical malpractice may feel hopeless and lost. However, if this applies to you, we encourage you to take heart and take action by speaking to our dedicated New Jersey Hepatitis B birth injury attorneys to learn about your available legal recourse. Those who cause unnecessary harm due to medical negligence during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and after childbirth, are financially liable to their victims. It is our commitment to work tirelessly to secure compensation for injured children and their suffering parents when these medical malpractice injustices occur.
If you have questions about your rights in a child’s Hepatitis B misdiagnosis or negligence case, contact us at 866-708-8617 for a free consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer to learn more about filing a medical malpractice claim for your child’s hepatitis B injuries. Armed with knowledge about the process and prospects, you may feel relieved to know you can better help your child and we can facilitate the process of recovering full and fair damages for the harm they suffered.