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Neonatal Infections

When a parent finds out their newborn child is suffering from an infection, it can be heartbreaking. There are so many unknowns with infections in babies, and the parents don’t know if the child will suffer a birth injury or even recover from the infection. There are also so many possible causes of a birth infection that the parents may find it is hard to get an answer from the doctors to find out what caused the injury.

Some neonatal infections may be caused by complications during pregnancy, or negligence by the doctors in failing to monitor the baby and mother. If your child suffered a serious infection leading to a birth injury, you can turn to an experienced birth injury lawyer for the answers the hospital won’t give you.

What are Neonatal Infections?

A neonatal infection is a type of infection in a newborn. The infection could have occurred at any point in the pregnancy and birth process, including: 

  • Fetal infections in the womb
  • Infection in the birth canal during delivery
  • Infection after delivery 

The infection can be transferred from the mother to the baby or to the baby from an outside source. The immune system of a newborn baby can be very fragile and an infection that the mother can easily fight off may be much more harmful to the newborn. Infections can be temporary, clear up on their own or resolve after antibiotic treatment. However, some infections may be permanent. 

Fetal Infections in the Womb

Infections that occur while the fetus is in the womb are “in utero” infections. This covers the period before the child is delivered through vaginal birth or c-section delivery. In utero infections are generally transmitted to the baby through the mother. The outcome of a baby suffering an in utero infection can vary depending on the development of the baby, timing of infection, and specific virus or bacteria. 

Infection in the Birth Canal During Delivery

Infections contracted in the birth canal are intrapartum infections. Intrapartum infections occur with a vaginal delivery when the baby picks up an infection through the infected birth canal. The risk of infection may increase with a delayed delivery. 

Infection After Delivery 

After delivery, the baby may be very vulnerable to infections from contact with the mother, through breastfeeding, or from contact with other people, including doctors and nurses. Postpartum infection can also occur in the hospital environment, or a hospital-acquired infection

Types of Neonatal Infections

There are a number of different types of neonatal infections, including viral, bacterial, and fungal. Some of the possible neonatal infections include: 

  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Syphilis
  • Herpes
  • Group B streptococcus
  • E. coli
  • Listeria
  • Chlamydia
  • Rubella
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Zika virus
  • Tuberculosis

Signs and Symptoms of Infection in a Newborn

The signs and symptoms of a newborn with an infection can be nonspecific. Signs of an infection may begin while the baby is still in the womb, they may be onset shortly after birth, or could be delayed. Signs and symptoms may include: 

  • Signs of fetal distress
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Fever
  • Hypothermia
  • Breathing problems
  • Decreased bowel movement
  • Low blood sugar
  • Seizures
  • Slow or fast heart rate
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Abdominal distension
  • Sleepiness or lethargy

Diagnosing the baby for an infection generally involves testing the baby’s blood for the presence of bacterial cultures, viral infection, or other signs of infection, like an abnormal blood count.

Causes of Infection and Risk Factors

Infections can come from a variety of sources but there are a number of risk factors that may increase the chance of developing an infection. One of the most serious risk factors is premature birth. Birth before 40 weeks of gestation has a higher risk of infection, neonatal sepsis, and serious complications from infection. Other risk factors may include:

  • Meconium aspiration
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Bacterial infection in the mother
  • Prolonged labor
  • Multiple births

Birth Injuries Caused by Neonatal Infections

Possible injuries that are caused by neonatal infections range from minor that clear up with no long-term harm to permanent injuries. Neonatal infections can be fatal. Possible injuries associated with neonatal infections include: 

Neonatal Sepsis Injuries

Sepsis is an inflammatory immune response to infection. Neonatal sepsis is a blood infection that occurs in newborns under 90 days old. This can occur shortly after birth or develop within the first few months of life. Neonatal sepsis is generally caused by bacterial or viral infections, including E. coli, Listeria, Group B streptococcus, or herpes simplex virus (HSV). If it is not properly treated, neonatal sepsis can be fatal. 

When is a Birth Injury Caused by Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is based on the doctor’s standard of care. When an OB/GYN or anesthesiologist does not provide the standard of care that other doctors would in a similar situation and it results in an injury, the doctor may have committed medical malpractice. A medical malpractice claim allows the family to get compensation for the damage to pay for medical bills, future care, and any other damages associated with the birth injury. 

Preventative medicine can be a big factor in avoiding a serious neonatal infection. This may involve testing the mother and baby for common viral or bacterial infections. Failure to monitor the mother or baby and failure to provide proper preventative care can be a cause of birth injuries

When the doctors, nurses, and hospital do not ensure a clean and sterile area for delivery, it can increase the risk of infection to the baby. Failure to follow proper sterilization and cleaning procedures can be a cause of birth injuries. 

In some difficult births, the doctor will improperly delay delivery. Delayed delivery can increase the risk of infection and other birth injuries like hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Delayed delivery or improper delivery can be a cause of serious birth injuries. 

Birth Injury Malpractice Lawyers in DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia

If your child suffered a birth injury caused by an infection, it may have been caused by the failure of the medical system to provide proper care. The hospital may not want to give you the answers you are looking for. Talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about holding the doctors and hospitals accountable for their negligence. Contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.

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