Mothers and Babies may Suffer Complications from Undiagnosed or Untreated STDs in Pregnancy
Not all STDs are alike. Sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), STDs are diseases that can pass from the mother to the fetus and can harm both a mother and child if left undiagnosed and untreated. According to findings from the CDC, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs) in pregnant women increase the risk of having a baby with a birth defect, otherwise known as a congenital disability. Women of childbearing age are also the most sexually active and likely to contract an STD. The CDC studies and countless other medical research articles correlate untreated STDs in pregnant women to avoidable birth defects in their offspring. Prompt detection and treatment are effective prevention against harm to developing fetuses and newborns. Therefore, medical errors involving missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease while pregnant, and inadequate treatment or preparation for birth, can contribute to a woman’s troubled pregnancy and delivery. It can also lead to a serious birth injury.
What Causes Sexually-Transmitted Diseases?
STDs develop when microorganisms pass from one person to another through bodily fluids, primarily blood and genital fluids, or through the skin by prolonged and extensive skin contact during intimate sessions. Although they are associated with sex, STDs can also pass through the blood when people share hypodermic needles or blood transfusions. Likewise, babies can contract STDs from their mothers.
What are the Most Common STDs for Pregnant Women?
STDs vary from region to region, but the most common are bacterial, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Others are viral, such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV, and hepatitis B. Still, others arise from parasites like trichomoniasis, pubic lice, and scabies. Other infections that are not STDs can contribute to disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections
What is most problematic about an STD diagnosis is the lack of symptoms. Many people do not know they have one. Others visit their doctor after noticing sores, bumps, or genital discharge. Women may experience painful sex or urination and experience vaginal bleeding. Others experience soreness in the abdominal region or rashes. Women with STDs not only suffer symptoms associated with the specific STD, but also risk pregnancy and birth complications.
Consequences of STDs for Mothers and Infants
Infection during pregnancy is particularly worrisome for the effects on the mother and the developing fetus. STDs may cause miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirths, and reproductive system damage for mothers. Gonorrhea in particular, can cause mouth sores, blood infection, and fever in the mother. For the pregnancy, it can cause premature rupture of the membranes that protect the fetus and blindness if the infant is infected at delivery. A mother also passes Hepatitis B at delivery. Moreover, some STDs prevent a mother from breastfeeding, such as HIV. Others require the breastfeeding mother to take medications to avoid affecting the baby. STDs also raise the risk of contracting HIV. The risk of infection, prematurity, brain defects, and liver disease is high for the unborn. Additionally, an STD potentially causes low birth weight, cleft lip, heart defects, gastroschisis (intestines form outside the abdominal wall), blindness, deafness, malformed limbs, sickness, and even death.
Testing for STIs during Pregnancy
Given the potential consequences for a birthing mother and her child, doctors must test pregnant women for STDs. Testing for an STD is the best way to protect the child and their mother. In that way, they can treat and prepare for any complications resulting from an STD. Typically, tests involve physical examinations, swabbing tissue, or blood and urine samples. Once identified, an STD may require antibiotics to cure it or antiviral drugs and lifestyle changes to maintain good health for incurable varieties. Unfortunately, some STDs are incurable, so a physician must take steps to protect the mother and baby as the due date nears.
However, the best treatment is prevention by early detection. Therefore, patients planning a pregnancy should to be tested and tested again in the early months of pregnancy to avoid the worst effects of an STD. Routine testing before delivery in the later months for Hepatitis B is also a protocol for pregnancies to prevent transmission at delivery during vaginal birth. Knowing the characteristics and risks of each STD is critical for a physician’s course of action to protect their patients. For example, STDs like syphilis or HIV that pass to the fetus in utero are treated differently from those that pass during delivery, such as chlamydia and genital herpes.
Negligence with Sexually-Transmitted Diseases in Pregnancy and Childbirth
Doctors and their medical staff are chiefly responsible for routinely checking for STDs in women, whether as preparation for pregnancy or at various stages of pregnancy. A woman may contract an STD at any point in pregnancy and pre-pregnancy. Therefore, diligent medical professionals carefully track and treat patients with STDs and inform them about the dire necessity of preventing an STD during pregnancy. Initial meetings are particularly critical in learning a patient’s history with STDs and possible infection. However, the physician who fails to monitor a pregnant woman’s condition spurred on by an STD, or verify they are STD-free before delivery, may be extremely negligent in failing to protect the mother and child.
When newborns deliver with bone deformities, blindness, and other symptoms associated with STDs, their parents likely want to know the cause. Whether they were unaware of an STD or knew about the STD, individuals expect their treating physicians to practice medicine proactively. If your doctor failed to ask you about or test you for STDs, or neglected to follow up with your condition during the pregnancy, they may be held liable for your child’s congenital disabilities or birth injuries. Some defects have immediate and short-term effects on your baby, while others are lifelong. Either way, your child will need care. Talking to a well-versed birth injury attorney to discuss the available remedies for you and your baby may help you pay for expensive care and compensate you, to the extent possible, for the pain and suffering you were caused.
Contact New Jersey Malpractice Attorneys for STD-Related Pregnancy & Birth Complications
Contact our team of seasoned birth injury lawyers if your doctor, the hospital, or any of its staff delivered substandard care for your sexually-transmitted infection during your pregnancy, delivery, or thereafter. Speaking with a pregnancy and childbirth malpractice lawyer with know-how can mean the difference between receiving the compensation you and your baby deserve, and losing your opportunity to file a claim against those responsible.
We can investigate your situation, explain your settlement options and probabilities, devise litigation strategies, and remain in consistent communication with you over the course of the legal process, as we pursue justice and the top achievable compensation for you and your family. We can also ensure you meet critical legal deadlines for filing your lawsuit and relate required filings, notifications, depositions, and the like. Our attorneys also connect with the right medical experts after identifying the medical expertise and support you will need to prove your case. Most importantly, we can help you through the complicated legal process during a difficult time while you concentrate on your well-being.
Get in touch with our birth injury attorneys for further assistance and counsel on your STD-related birth injury or wrongful birth case in New Jersey. We serve clients statewide and consult on these cases across the country. The initial consultation is 100 percent free of charge, as is our representation unless we obtain a financial recovery on your behalf. Contact 866-708-8617 to speak with an attorney today. You can also request a free case evaluation via our website and a member of our team will reach out to further assist you.
- Maternal genitourinary infections and risk of birth defects in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study
- Risk of gastroschisis with maternal genitourinary infections: the US National birth defects prevention study 1997–2011
You can read more here about the Risks and Complications from Delayed Prenatal Testing.