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Birth Infections

The Harmful Effects of Birth Infections

A mother and fetus share a close, symbiotic relationship in which the mother passes nutrients and oxygen to the unborn child through the placenta and umbilical cord. Thus, it is likely that a mother will also pass infections to the baby if she becomes ill during the pregnancy. These birth infections can cause birth defects, and if not treated, may be fatal.

Proper management of birth infections is essential to protecting 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 malpractice lawsuit if the baby suffered harm because of the mistake.

Types of Birth Infections

Illness in pregnancy is a serious concern. Nearly every type of viral or bacterial infection can pass to the baby and cause alarm. Three of the most common and serious 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.

GBS is bacteria found in the vagina and lower intestine and affects a baby during labor 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 by administering an antibiotic through an IV into a mother's bloodstream. This ensures the antibiotic is fast-acting and has great success in preventing the transfer of the infection to the baby. 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 warning signs and risk factors — premature delivery, prolonged labor after the water breaks, fever — and take proper measures to test and/or eliminate the bacteria in order to protect the baby.

Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection (CMV)

Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common infection that affects 30-50 percent of women in the United States by the age of 40 (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). It is typically transferred through sexual contact, or through contact with a child's saliva or urine who carries the virus. While generally not harmful to the mother, CMV can be passed down to a fetus through the placenta and cause health problems later on.

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 Birth Injury Team is a subsidiary of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., made up of experienced attorneys and medical professionals. Our lawyers have more than 100 years of combined experience handling birth injury cases. We are dedicated to helping parents understand their child's condition and guiding them through the process of securing the care and support they need. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients nationwide.


Located in Philadelphia, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., home of MyPhillyLawyer, serves clients in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States.

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