Is The Intrauterine Infection Chorioamnionitis Preventable?


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When a pregnant woman develops an infection, chorioamnionitis and cerebral palsy may result. However, this type of intrauterine infection should be largely preventable with proper healthcare and monitoring for risk factors. If a doctor misses or fails to treat the infection, the baby may end up with a permanent disability.

What Is An Intrauterine Infection?

The intrauterine infection, chorioamnionitis, occurs when the membranes surrounding the baby in the womb are infected. There are natural bacteria present on the skin and in the vagina. Though typically harmless, the bacteria can move and infect the membranes surrounding the baby, the umbilical cord, and the amniotic fluid. When this happens, it can lead to very serious complications for the mother and child. Studies have shown that chorioamnionitis increases the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly cerebral palsy, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and intellectual disability.

What Causes Chorioamnionitis, And How Is It Diagnosed?

Numerous things may cause chorioamnionitis. Most commonly, it is bacteria moving up through the vagina and cervix, though it can also travel through the mother’s bloodstream to the placenta. Intrauterine infection is sometimes a complication of invasive procedures like fetoscopy or amniocentesis.  

Diagnosing chorioamnionitis is usually based solely on clinical signs and findings because it isn’t practical or safe to take a sample of amniotic fluid or membrane in most situations. Rarely, a sample of amniotic fluid is extracted using a guided ultrasound and needle aspiration technique for testing. The vast majority of cases of chorioamnionitis are diagnosed based on two measurable clinical symptoms, which are:

  • Maternal Fever – Low-grade fevers (under 101 degrees F) are not uncommon during pregnancy or during labor. However, when a low-grade fever is persistent, or there is a fever over 101 degrees F, it is a strong indication of a potential infection. Fever is nearly always present in chorioamnionitis cases and is typically required as a prerequisite to a positive diagnosis.
  • Tachycardia – An increased heart rate, or tachycardia, in mother and baby is the second most common symptom of chorioamnionitis. If the mother’s heart rate is over 100 beats per minute (BPM) and the baby’s is over 160 BPM, it is considered tachycardic. There can be other reasons for increased heart rates, but it is a very strong indicator of chorioamnionitis when it occurs alongside a maternal fever.

How Is Chorioamnionitis Treated?

Treating chorioamnionitis may vary depending on the mother’s age, general health, symptoms, and the severity of the infection.

Chorioamnionitis complications can be serious for the mother, but they can be extremely dangerous for the baby – up to and including death. However, it can usually be effectively treated when it is promptly diagnosed. Typically, the treatment includes aggressive and immediate antibiotic therapy. The prompt use of broad-spectrum antibiotics has been shown to greatly reduce the risks of harm to both mother and baby from chorioamnionitis. In fact, antibiotics reduce the chance of neonatal sepsis by about 80 percent when it is administered early in the infection.

Can Medical Malpractice Cause Or Exacerbate Chorioamnionitis?

Because vaginal infections are the primary cause of chorioamnionitis, doctors must diligently screen for sexually transmitted infections and group B strep during a woman’s pregnancy. Careful monitoring allows any infections that are present to be treated promptly. In some cases, pregnant women do not have noticeable symptoms, so routine monitoring of the mother’s and baby’s heart rates throughout labor is essential.

A heart rate increase may indicate that there is an infection developing. If this occurs, doctors may need to perform additional tests, like amniocentesis, that check for bacteria in the amniotic fluid to determine the best course of action. If a woman’s water breaks (rupture of the membranes) prematurely, doctors may have to make quick decisions about whether to deliver the baby preterm.

What the doctor does in these situations has a massive impact on the outcomes of the infection for the mother and baby. For example, if the infection is caught quickly and the mother and baby receive antibiotics immediately, it may prevent them from developing severe complications. However, if the doctor fails to identify the infections or administer proper treatment, the impact will be more significant and the complications more serious.  

Find Legal Help In Pennsylvania For Cerebral Palsy Caused By Chorioamnionitis

Suppose you have a child that has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In that case, you must determine why they have been affected by the disability, especially if you suffered from chorioamnionitis during pregnancy or labor. Your child’s condition may have resulted from a medical error or negligence. When that is the case, you may be entitled to compensation for the financial and emotional damages you’ve suffered because of the failure.

A medical malpractice attorney who handles birth injury cases can help you determine whether your child’s condition was caused by a doctor’s mistake. At Ross Feller Casey, we have helped many families that have experienced chorioamnionitis, cerebral palsy, and other birth injuries due to the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare professional. Call our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our leading birth injury lawyers.

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