As a parent, you don’t want to hear that there’s a problem with your soon to be son or daughter. Or that a life-changing complication was discovered in the hours after their birth. An infection during pregnancy can have devastating consequences for you and your child. If untreated, maternal infection can result in a permanent birth injury or even death.
What Are Maternal Infections?
These are illnesses that affect both mother and fetus during pregnancy. While some common maternal infections, (such as flu or a cold) will very little impact on a pregnancy, there are a few that can result in serious health complications.
Below are several serious conditions that can pose a threat to your pregnancy.
The virus created by hepatitis b (HBV) is passed from mother to child during birth and targets the liver. Roughly 90% of infants born with the virus develop serious health issues such as liver failure or cancer. The disease can be prevented with early screening during pregnancy and treated with vaccination after delivery.
This is an infection of the membranes that surround the fetus. This disease is caused by bacteria that travel from the vagina into the uterus during pregnancy. Chorioamnionitis can cause cerebral palsy, meningitis and serious respiratory issues in infants with the disease. Antibiotics administered during pregnancy and conscious steps to reduce the chance of vaginal infection are considered the best treatment options.
Group B Streptococcus
Group B Strep (GBS) is an often-seen bacterial infection found in the rectum, gastrointestinal tract or vagina. It’s often difficult to detect and can be passed onto an infant if not treated during pregnancy. GBS has been known to result in infant death as well as medical complications that include pneumonia and sepsis. This disease is not sexually transmitted and can be found in up to 25% of healthy women. Testing via a simple swab test is thought to be the best method of combatting GBS before it can cause major harm.
Urinary tract infections
UTI, a bacterial inflammation of the urinary tract, are considered common during pregnancy due to natural changes in the body. If left untreated, urinary tract infections can spread to the kidneys and can cause premature labor or an underweight infant. Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, and erythromycin are considered safe to take during pregnancy.
This sexually transmitted disease can be passed onto the fetus during gestation or to an infant during delivery. Syphilis carries many serious health risks for a newborn, including stillbirth, deformed teeth, neurological impairment, and vision/hearing damage. The disease is known to lie dormant for years and can resurface even after decades without symptoms. Syphilis can be treated with penicillin if discovered early on.
Maternal Infection Verdicts
Washington, 2019: $23.9 million verdict
A first-time mother alleged that her treating hospital’s handling of her daughter’s delivery caused her brain injury that permanently impacted both her mental and motor functions. Upon being admitted to labor and delivery, the hospital staff gave the mother penicillin to prevent a Group B Strep infection because they knew she was a carrier. They then connected her to a fetal heart monitor, which initially showed reassuring results. The staff took them off the monitor for six hours. Around that time, the obstetrician performed an amniotomy because the baby’s head was still above the pelvis. The fetal heart monitor was immediately re-connected, which showed worrisome heart rate patterns. Two hours later, the mother began to push. Her daughter was born about four hours later. She was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and was not breathing. It took between 20 to 30 minutes for the hospital staff to resuscitate her. She was irritable, had an uncontrollable cry, and experienced rapid reservations. The newborn also experienced high temperatures for about 90 minutes. The pathology department examined the placenta, which revealed chorioamnionitis. Hospital staff told her parents that she had a lung infection, despite her blood culture testing negative. She was then transferred to another hospital, where she developed seizures. An MRI revealed that she sustained hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. Her parents sued the hospital for failing to properly manage the delivery. They asserted that the nurse and doctor failed to ensure proper monitoring of the baby, claiming that if they did, she would have been delivered earlier. The hospital denied liability, claiming they provided good care and that the baby was properly monitored. A jury awarded the parent $23,900,000.
Illinois, 2018: $9 million settlement.
A baby sustained Group B Streptococcus within three days of being born. Her legal counsel contended that the hospital failed to take routine Group B Strep testing month before her birth. They noted the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)’s standards provided for routine testing for expectant mothers at 35-37 weeks, even if there were no visible risk factors. The baby suffered brain damage that caused significant memory deficits and ADHD. Her conditions affected her ability to work in the future and necessitated lifelong adult supervision. She was 12-years-old by the time of the case’s settlement, was in special education classes, and functioned at the 1st-grade level. The girl was at high risk of getting lost easily while outside or forgetting to turn off the stove after cooking. This case settled for $9,000,000.
New York, 2017: $26 million verdict
A mother of twin girls alleged that a hospital’s negligence caused the death of one child and was the source of the surviving child’s birth injuries. The plaintiff claimed that she developed chorioamnionitis from an untreated cervical infection, which led to her premature labor. While one child died from chorioamnionitis complications, the other child was born deaf with paralyzed vocal cords. The suit alleged that her complaints of cramping and spotting were symptoms of a potential premature labor. She alleged these complaints were ignored by her treating physicians. The defense countered that the patient’s condition at the time of her initial examination did not indicate any infection or premature labor. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding a $26 million verdict that was later capped under a $1.5 million high-low agreement.
Illinois, 2010: $29.2 million verdict
A first-time mother alleged that her treating doctors failed to diagnose and treat a Group B strep infection. In her lawsuit, she claimed that the defendants’ failure to administer antibiotics after her water had broken caused her child to develop cerebral palsy and quadriplegia. The defense denied any wrongdoing or any deviation from the accepted standard of care. At the conclusion of a bench trial, the plaintiff was awarded $29,159,535 in damages.
Getting a Lawyer
As seen in the verdicts below, you may be entitled to compensation if your child was injured due to an untreated infection. Call Miller & Zois today to speak to our Maryland birth injury medical malpractice attorneys at 800-553-8082 or get an online case evaluation.