Babies are born with immature immune systems. This leaves newborns much more susceptible to infections. The immune system of a newborn is not yet equipped to fight viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria that can cause serious, life-threatening infections. As a result, newborns with infections can become extremely sick and require extensive time to recover. Although most babies do recover without any significant long-term impacts, there are some cases where misdiagnosis and delays result in serious and permanent mental and physical injuries that can be fatal.
Seeing your baby struggle for any reason can be extremely difficult. Learning that they are suffering as a result of a medical professional’s reckless and negligent actions just makes the situation even more unbearable. Unfortunately, numerous children are left seriously injured by the very people we trust with their lives. When babies suffer from serious infections at birth, it is crucial that families contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to explore legal options available to them.
Our team of aggressive attorneys at The Malpractice Group has several decades of experience fighting to protect the legal rights of families after they are impacted by medical negligence. Our medical malpractice attorneys provide proven and effective legal representation to ensure those harmed collect the compensation they need for medical treatment and various other damages they face. Contact our law firm today to see what legal options are available for you.
When Neonatal Infections Occur
There are generally three periods during which newborn infections can be acquired. Each time frame can have a dramatic impact on the prognosis. In general, newborn infections can be transmitted to a child from the mother:
- In Utero: In utero infections occur before the baby is born. These infections to a baby are often from subclinical infections of the mother. The type of infection and the time of the infection are driving factors in determining the prognosis of the disease. In some cases, mothers can suffer abortions or give birth prematurely. Other cases can result in stillbirths or intrauterine growth restrictions to the child. Some babies are born with malformations and can be either symptomatic or asymptomatic. Routine blood work is critical for determining whether a baby sustained an infection during this period.
- Intrapartum: These infections occur when the baby is passed through the infected birth canal. Mothers who have untreated infections can pass them to their babies while giving birth, causing overwhelming complications. In some cases, these ascending infections are the result of a delayed delivery after the rupture of membranes.
- Postpartum: These infections occur in babies after the baby is born. Postpartum infections can occur as a result of contact with an infected mother, or they can be transmitted through breastfeeding. In other cases, postpartum infections are transmitted through contact with an infected person or within the hospital environment.
There are numerous cases where babies sustain serious newborn infections due to negligent handling. When doctors, nurses, and other medical providers have infections, they can easily transmit them to a newborn while caring for them. In other cases, babies are not accurately and timely diagnosed with infections, which can lead to life-threatening consequences.
If your newborn baby suffered from the impacts of a serious infection that you believe was caused by medical negligence, it is imperative that you contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Call The Malpractice Group today to see if you have the right to pursue compensation needed to help alleviate some of the financial burdens your family faces as a result of these injuries.
What are the Most Common Newborn Infections?
Babies are at risk of developing life-threatening infections during the birthing process and immediately after. When mothers have infections during pregnancy and delivery, it increases the likelihood that it will impact their baby. In general, there are three main types of infections that are more commonly transmitted to babies from their mothers. These include:
- Viral Infections: Some of the most common viral infections passed to a baby during birth include hepatitis, herpes simplex virus, Rubella virus, and varicella virus (chickenpox). Many of these viral infections have no cure. However, treatment is available that can provide some relief to them as they grow.
- Bacterial Infections: Some of the most common bacterial infections passed on to newborns include Listeria, E. coli, syphilis, and Group B Streptococcus. Many of these are treatable in adults. Unfortunately, the weakened immunity of children makes them more likely to cause serious injuries, especially if they are not timely diagnosed.
- Parasitic Infections: One of the most common parasitic infections transmitted to newborns is toxoplasmosis.
In most cases, babies are born with infections due to the mother not being treated properly for her own infection. When a mother’s infection is not accurately diagnosed or treated, it can have life-altering impacts on the newborn child.
Signs and Symptoms of Newborn Infections
It is important to understand that the signs and symptoms related to newborn infections are not specific. The most common symptoms associated with these infections include:
- Poor eating habits
- Increased sleepiness/lethargy
- Fever or hypothermia
- Abdominal distention
In some cases, abnormalities may accompany or cause infections in newborns. This is particularly true in cases where congenital infections are acquired before the birthing process. Some of these accompanying symptoms include:
- Growth restrictions
- Neurologic abnormalities
The signs and symptoms of newborn infections are often detectable at birth or immediately after. When doctors and other medical professionals fail to accurately and timely diagnose infections, it can have a life-altering impact on a newborn child.
How are Meningitis and other Newborn Infections Diagnosed?
After a baby is born, doctors usually run blood tests and test fluid samples and cultures from the infant. Sometimes cultures from the mother are tested as well in order to diagnose infections. After an infection is diagnosed, it is imperative to begin treatment as soon as possible.
Some treatment options for infections include the use of antiviral and antibiotic medications. Respiratory assistance and fluid replenishment, as well as the use of other medications, may be required as well, depending on the type and severity of the infection.
Complications from Missed or Delayed Diagnosis
A sad reality is that newborn infections occur in approximately 2 in 1,000 live births within the United States. Babies born underweight are more likely to develop devastating infections, which can be life-threatening. The fact that newborns do not have fully developed immune systems places them at an increased risk of contracting serious infections that they are unable to fight off on their own.
For this reason, timely and accurate diagnosis is key to ensuring the baby will continue to thrive and develop normally. Not diagnosing and beginning treatment for a newborn infection can have severe consequences. Infections are known to spread rapidly, which is far truer in cases of newborn children with underdeveloped immunities. These incidents can turn to serious acute infections, which can be life-threatening. When infections spread throughout the body, they are classified as generalized infections. Some of the most common complications of a missed diagnosis of infections in newborns include:
- Sepsis: This term is used to describe an infection in the blood. This is an extremely serious type of infection that involves the spread of germs throughout the baby’s blood and tissues. Some microorganisms commonly associated with sepsis in newborns include C-negative Staphylococcus, Haemophilus influenzae, E. coli, Listeria, and Group B Streptococcus. A test of cerebrospinal fluids or blood tests can be used to diagnose these infections in newborns. If sepsis is diagnosed, the baby will need to be prescribed antibiotics and monitored closely in the neonatal intensive care unit to ensure they are responding well to the medications. If sepsis is not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, it is extremely likely that the newborn will succumb to the infection. In some cases, babies with sepsis can develop cerebral palsy and other cognitive deficits and neurological disabilities.
- Meningitis: This term is used to describe infections that settle around the brain. Meningitis is a very serious infection that results in inflammation in the membranes around the spinal cord and brain. In the United States, the most common cause of meningitis in Group B Streptococcus. It is estimated that between 10% and 30% of women carry Group B Strep, which can lead to newborn meningitis if it is not diagnosed and treated accordingly. In other cases, E. coli and Listeria are the cause of this potentially deadly infection. Depending on the cause of meningitis, babies are provided either antiviral or antibiotic medications and admitted into the intense supportive care unit within the NICU for close monitoring.
- Encephalitis: This type of infection involves the inflammation of the brain itself. This infection is caused by a virus. In most cases, the herpes simplex virus is passed from the mother to the baby during the delivery process. This condition is diagnosed through blood tests, MRI, EEGs, and CT scans. In some cases, a spinal tap can be used to diagnose this condition. Encephalitis caused by herpes is extremely dangerous. Given this fact, doctors will typically start administering medications to the child before the infection is confirmed. Babies who suffer from encephalitis are administered an antiviral medication called acyclovir. This medication is given to newborns for two to three weeks. The prognosis of babies diagnosed with encephalitis is dependent upon the severity of the case. The baby’s immune system and the timely diagnosis and treatment of the condition are also driving factors on determining the long-term impacts. In most mild cases, babies go on to recover without any problems. In severe cases, babies can be left with mental and physical disabilities that are permanent, such as cognitive impairments, seizure disorders, and cerebral palsy.
- Pneumonia: This term is used to describe a newborn infection that spreads to the lungs. These infections can cause pulmonary changes and have a destructive impact on the bronchopulmonary tissue. Pneumonia in newborns can also cause respiratory distress or failure. In some cases, pneumonia can develop into sepsis, which can have a life-threatening impact on the child. This condition is typically diagnosed through a blood culture testing, a chest x-ray, a pulse oximetry reading, and a tracheal aspirate. When babies are diagnosed with pneumonia, they will be provided an initial broad-spectrum antibiotic. Once the specific organism is identified, it will receive a different medication that is specific to the culprit.
Babies born with newborn infections require immediate care from medical professionals to prevent the worsening of symptoms. Without identifying and beginning treatment for infections, babies are at risk of suffering permanent mental and physical damages that can have a long-term impact on their health and wellbeing. In some cases, infections can be fatal. If your baby suffered as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, contact The Malpractice Group today to see how we can help you get the compensation and justice you will need to help your injured child thrive in the future.
The Malpractice Group Can Help You
Every day, families across the country are negatively affected by birth injuries caused by the negligence of a medical professional. Newborn infections are particularly devastating as they can cause immediate and long-term damage and injury. Neonatal infections require immediate medical attention from doctors and other medical professionals. Identifying and beginning treatment as soon as possible is a critical part of ensuring a favorable outcome. If your baby suffered a birth injury and you believe it was caused by the negligent actions of a medical professional, it is crucial that you reach out to an aggressive medical negligence lawyer as soon as possible.
Our medical malpractice attorneys at The Malpractice Group have decades of experience helping families get the justice they deserve. When babies sustain newborn infections that result in permanent impairments and disabilities, our team helps families recover the maximum amount of compensation available to alleviate the long-term costs of medical treatment, pain and suffering, and various other damages they face due to these horrific circumstances. Contact our law firm today at (312) 561-4324. Schedule a free case evaluation at your earliest convenience to discuss legal options available for you.