What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Chorioamnionitis?


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Chorioamnionitis is an intrauterine infection affecting the amniotic fluid in the placenta that can have serious complications for the mother and especially for the baby.

Typically, if the mother and her baby are infected with chorioamnionitis, doctors recommend delivering the baby as soon as it’s safe. If the infection spreads to the placenta, it may cause preterm delivery, increasing the risk of the baby developing cerebral palsy. Further, if the chorioamnionitis infection isn’t identified and treated quickly and properly, it can spread to the baby’s spine and brain, increasing the chance of developing meningitis. It can also spread to the bloodstream, resulting in sepsis. Both of these conditions can be fatal for a baby.

How Does Chorioamnionitis Happen?

Developing chorioamnionitis is more likely when a pregnant woman’s water breaks earlier than it should before a baby is born. Typically, the infection starts in the woman’s urinary tract. It then moves up into the uterus, where the baby is. If the amniotic sac breaks, bacteria can reach the baby. Some of the risk factors that may cause an expectant mother to develop chorioamnionitis include:

  • Tobacco or alcohol use
  • Group B strep
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Epidural anesthesia
  • Long labor
  • Vaginal infections
  • Frequent internal examinations during labor
  • Internal fetal monitoring during labor

While intrauterine infections like chorioamnionitis can’t always be prevented, it’s critical that obstetric providers promptly diagnose and treat them before labor and delivery. If the symptoms of neonatal infections are overlooked or misdiagnosed by medical professionals, it may be considered medical malpractice.

How Is Chorioamnionitis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a suspected intraamniotic infection such as chorioamnionitis is made when the maternal temperature during labor is 102.2 degrees in isolation or when the maternal temperature is greater than or equal to 101.4 degrees, and one additional risk factor is present such as:

  1. Maternal leukocytosis
  2. Abnormal cervical discharge
  3. Fetal tachycardia (a fetal heart rate greater than 160 beats per minute)

Administration of intrapartum antibiotics is required whenever chorioamnionitis is suspected or confirmed.

What Are The Complications of Chorioamnionitis?

Chorioamnionitis can cause severe complications for the mother and the baby. In the mother, it may cause:

  • Blood clots
  • Hemorrhage
  • Pelvic abscesses
  • Infections in the bloodstream
  • Endomyometritis - a serious infection that can be fatal

The baby may suffer even more severe complications, including:

  • Fetal inflammatory response syndrome
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Neonatal sepsis, which can be fatal
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disabilities
  • Brain injury or damage that leads to cerebral palsy
  • Stillbirth

How Does Chorioamnionitis Lead To Cerebral Palsy?

One of the long-term effects of chorioamnionitis may be the baby developing disabilities. When the infection accompanies even modest fetal asphyxia, it may result in cerebral palsy, a permanent disability. When a laboring mother develops chorioamnionitis or chorioamnionitis is suspected and not timely treated appropriately with antibiotics, the risk of cerebral palsy quadruples – even in full-term babies.

Can Intrauterine Infections That Cause Cerebral Palsy Be Prevented?

The best way to manage intrauterine infections like chorioamnionitis is for the obstetric provider to recognize the signs and symptoms of chorioamnionitis promptly and immediately begin antibiotics. Unfortunately, doctors don’t always diagnose these infections before the damage has been done.

Good basic hygiene is one of the most significant parts of preventing intrauterine infections. Pregnant women should wash their hands often, especially after handling food, animals, or dirt or being around sick people. It’s also vital to avoid consuming unpasteurized milk products and being around rodents (pet or wild), other wild animals, and cat litter.

Another critical part of prevention is getting regular medical care. Pregnant women should go to all their scheduled doctor appointments and discuss any conditions or infections they may be at risk for and what can be done to prevent them. Symptoms of infections, like fever, rashes, coughing, and flu-like symptoms, should be brought to a doctor’s attention immediately. If it is an infection, it must be treated quickly.

Did A Chorioamnionitis Infection Cause Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy?

While you can’t always know exactly what caused your child to develop cerebral palsy, it may be clear that chorioamnionitis played a part. For example, if you were ill during pregnancy, but your obstetric provider didn’t properly treat you, it may have contributed to your child developing cerebral palsy, and your obstetric provider may be liable for not treating your condition properly. Or, if your fetus had a high heart rate during labor and you developed a fever (even a low-grade fever)  and you did not receive antibiotics, your obstetric provider may be liable.

Suppose you believe your doctor, midwife, nurse, or other medical professional didn’t identify or treat an intrauterine infection, and your child has cerebral palsy. In that case, you should contact an experienced cerebral palsy attorney immediately. An attorney will help you determine whether your child’s condition could have been prevented. 

Filing a birth injury claim may provide financial compensation that can be used to pay medical expenses for your child’s cerebral palsy treatment, therapy, assistive technology, mobility aids, and more.

Our experienced birth injury lawyers at Ross Feller Casey have helped many families like yours ease the financial burden of raising a child with cerebral palsy. Let us help your family, too. Contact our office to schedule your free case review and get the advice you need. There are no out-of-pocket costs. We handle these cases on a contingency basis.

About the Author

Scott Vezina concentrates his practice on representing individuals who have suffered catastrophic brain or spinal cord injuries caused by medical negligence and product defects.

Scott Vezina

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