Can a Fever During Labor Cause Cerebral Palsy?


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In otherwise healthy people, fevers aren’t usually a source of worry. We take fever-reducing medications if we’re uncomfortable, see a doctor if symptoms don’t improve, and complications tend to be rare. But when a woman is laboring to deliver a baby, fever is a major cause for concern. While complications are rare when treated appropriately, a fever can have potentially catastrophic outcomes for the child if left unchecked.

What Is Intrapartum Fever?

Most medical professionals define intrapartum fever as a fever greater than 102.2 degrees during labor. It can have many potential causes, some of which are not very well understood, but the potential risks and outcomes for the mother and her child are the same regardless of the fever’s cause.

Antibiotics are typically given when it’s suspected that the fever may be due to infection. Fever-reducing medications may be administered if indicated, and other potential causes should be investigated thoroughly. Things like epidural pain relief, medications called “prostaglandins” used during induction, prolonged labor, water breaking early, and a warm delivery room can all contribute to the development of a fever.

When Does Intrapartum Fever Become Dangerous?

When a woman enters the hospital to deliver her baby, her temperature is monitored regularly as she labors. If a fever is detected, potential causes are identified, and the fever is treated accordingly. It’s essential during this time that the fever continues to be closely monitored, and fetal monitoring is also recommended. Fetal distress becomes a major concern if the fever is too high (over 102.2 degrees) or lasts too long (more than 90 minutes). A C-section may be warranted if the baby is distressed, the fever can’t be controlled, and/or the labor doesn’t seem to progress.

When babies are born during an intrapartum fever, they’re at risk of suffering from immediate complications. For example, they may have low Apgar scores (a rating of health immediately after birth), difficulty breathing independently, and need to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for further monitoring and treatment. In more severe cases, babies born with a fever are at risk of suffering from seizures, permanent brain damage, cerebral palsy, or even death.

Did Intrapartum Fever Cause My Child’s Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis?

In the United States, 1 in 325 children has some form of cerebral palsy. While birth injury due to malpractice is one of the potential causes, cerebral palsy has many different possible causes and can’t always be predicted or prevented. That said, intrapartum fever raises the risk of cerebral palsy by more than nine times, so it must be monitored to reduce the risk of complications.

If you developed a fever during labor and your baby later received a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, then it’s very likely that your fever played a role in that diagnosis. If your fever went unnoticed, unmonitored, or untreated, the birth injury to your child could have resulted from a healthcare provider’s negligence.

Was My Child’s Birth Injury A Result Of Malpractice?

If your labor and delivery doctors or nurses didn’t follow proper protocols and an injury resulted, they could be liable for their negligence. It’s widely acknowledged that a fever over 102.2 degrees or a fever lasting more than 90 minutes can be dangerous for a child being born, so the maternal temperature must be closely monitored throughout labor. When a fever is detected, healthcare providers should immediately act to identify and correct the problem, begin fetal monitoring, and be prepared to perform a C-section if the baby shows any signs of distress.

You can make a negligence case if any of these things were not done and harm resulted. If it can be proven that another doctor following current medical guidelines would have acted differently and achieved a better outcome, you deserve to be compensated for your past and future medical bills and any pain and suffering.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

At Ross Feller Casey, the health and well-being of our clients are paramount. If a doctor, nurse, or hospital’s negligence has resulted in a cerebral palsy diagnosis, then we will do everything in our power to make them pay for the pain their negligence caused. Our team of lawyers and on-staff Ivy League-trained doctors understand that malpractice cases involving intrapartum fever can often be challenging to prove. Still, we have a track record of winning when it comes to medical malpractice and birth injury cases.

We’ve recovered more than $3 billion for our clients, including hundreds of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements. No other law firm has recovered more on behalf of injured Pennsylvania children in the past five years. Contact us today for your free consultation, and let us put our experience to work for you.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.