Mismanagement of Infections

Chorioamnionitis is when there is a bacterial infection of the womb and pregnancy membranes during pregnancy and labour. A failure to diagnose and treat chorioamnionitis can lead to serious complications including premature delivery and permanent injury or death of the mother or baby or both. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of infection is essential.

While the fetus is in the womb, mother and infant share a close, symbiotic relationship in which the mother's oxygen and nutrients are conveyed via the placenta and umbilical cord to the baby. Similarly, if the mother has an infection during pregnancy, the infection could be transferred to the baby, potentially causing birth defects in the foetus and possibly causing death if untreated. 

Proper management of birth infections is essential to protect both the mother and unborn baby. A doctor's response to symptoms of the infection can make the difference between life and death. In fact, mismanagement of an infection may be cause for a medical negligence compensation claim, if the mother or baby suffered injury because of the mistake.

Chorioamnionitis during pregnancy but before labour causes no symptoms but if the chorioamnionitis is suspected, amniocentesis can be carried out prior to the onset of labour to check for infection in the amniotic fluid. 

If chorioamnionitis occurs during the labour, symptoms of chorioamnionitis can include raised temperature as well as raised pulse in mother and baby, womb pain and the amniotic fluid smelling strange. If chorioamnionitis is suspected during labour doctors may recommend the woman be treated on the basis of her symptoms.

Usually treatment will include administration of antibiotics and treatment of symptoms. If the mother has a raised temperature and infection during labour the labour will be considered high risk and an obstetrician should lead the management of the labour. The raised temperature may also be a ground for more frequent intermittent checks on the fetal heart earlier in labour and for continuous CTG monitoring of the fetal heart rate later in the labour. In certain cases, the baby may have to be delivered immediately .

In the less severe cases, when there has been early diagnosis and treatment of the infection, there may be no long-term complications for the mother or baby lasting beyond delivery. Doctors will monitor the baby for signs of a resulting infection, but according to the March of Dimes, about 95% to 97% of babies infected with group B strep (one of the bacteria strains found in chorioamnionitis) recover with help from antibiotics. Premature babies are more vulnerable to developing serious complications or dying due to infections.

Three of the most common and serious types of birth infections include:

  • Group B Streptococcus Infection  

One of the most common, and most dangerous, newborn baby infections is Group B Streptococcus (GBS). It is estimated that nearly 12,000 babies are infected each year by this.GBS is bacteria found in the vagina and lower intestine and it infects a baby during labour and delivery. If the infection enters into a baby's bloodstream, it can cause pneumonia and meningitis, which may lead to brain damage, lung damage, and sight and hearing issues. Many babies can die from this infection.GBS can be prevented or treated by administering intravenous antibiotics and 95-97% of babies treated with antibiotics will recover. However, not all women know they are carrying the bacteria. Some doctors do not test for it, and even if tests are taken, they may show a false negative depending on the amount of bacteria in the vagina. Doctors should be aware of risk factors, including premature delivery, prolonged labour after the waters break and fever and take proper measures to test and/or eliminate the bacteria in order to protect the baby).

  • Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common infection transferred through sexual contact, or through contact with a child's saliva or urine that carries the virus. While generally not harmful to the mother, CMV can be passed to a fetus through the placenta and cause health problems later.Signs and symptoms of CMV at birth include liver problems, spleen problems, seizures and small head size. However, most babies born with CMV do not have any symptoms. The signs may not develop until a few years after birth. These include hearing and vision loss, seizures, coordination problems and mental disability. Babies and children who are known to have CMV should have their vision and hearing tested regularly.There is no definite way to prevent CMV because often women do not know they are carriers. However, thoroughly washing hands and avoiding contact with babies and small children who have the CMV infection during pregnancy can help. There is currently no reliable treatment for healthy individuals infected with CMV).

  • Herpes Simplex Infection

The Herpes Simplex virus is most commonly transferred to babies during delivery. In serious cases, it can cause premature delivery, skin defects, detachment of the retina and mental retardation. Doctors should order a C-section for women with an active outbreak to avoid passing the virus to the infant).The team of specialist medical negligence solicitors at Chadwick Lawrence is led by Tony May, a specialist birth injury and cerebral palsy solicitor with particular expertise in dealing with mismanagement of infections and other birth related injury compensation cases. He has an excellent record in high value and complex cases, many resulting in multi-million pound settlements. Tony has over 20 years experience in dealing with cases in which babies have been brain damaged or sustained other injuries as a result of negligent care and management before, during or following birth. He continues to represent many cerebral palsy children and young adults in medical negligence claims and after settlement he provides ongoing support as the Court of Protection Deputy for many of his cerebral palsy and brain damaged clients.

Tony can be contacted by email on anthonymay@chadlaw.co.uk or by telephone on 01484 519999. Alternatively, you could call our team on the freephone number below.

Our dedicated team of specialist clinical negligence, birth injury and cerebral palsy solicitors deal with claims countrywide and claims for mismanagement of infections. We are based at our Huddersfield office but can visit you in your home or in hospital if you are unable to attend at one of our West Yorkshire offices. If you believe that your child or a member of your family may have sustained a birth injury such as mismanagement of infections as a result of medical negligence and/or negligence by a midwife, please contact our specialist medical negligence Legal Aid and no-win-no-fee lawyers for free legal advice.

Contact Chadwick Lawrence for free legal advice on FREE PHONE 0800 028 2969 or email:anthonymay@chadlaw.co.uk

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