Infections can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn child if they are not quickly diagnosed and treated. Pregnancy can make infections more severe, which makes it all the more pressing to start treatment as soon as possible. Even mild infections can cause serious complications. Learn more about the impact infections can have on pregnancy.
Why Are Pregnant Women at a Higher Risk of Infection?
Pregnancy affects a woman’s entire body. Changes in hormone levels and immune system function can cause women to be more vulnerable to infection. Labor and delivery are especially susceptible times for infection.
Women often experience changes in immunity with pregnancy to protect both the mother and the baby. Some parts of your immune system may be suppressed while others are enhanced. The immune system works twice as hard to protect the mother and the baby. These changes can leave women open to infection. Other functions in the body change as well, which can affect the mother’s ability to fight off infection. Hormonal and physical changes can contribute to urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and lung infections. A pregnant woman’s body may be more predisposed to certain kinds of infections thanks to these changes.
Risks for the Baby
Most infections do not affect the baby, but it is possible for infections to be passed from mother to child, or for complications from the infection to put the baby at risk of birth injuries. Cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, and parvovirus are all infections that can be transmitted from the mother to the baby, and can be particularly dangerous to the baby. For cytomegalovirus, there is no treatment. Toxoplasmosis can be treated with antibiotics, and parvovirus can be treated with intrauterine blood transfusions.
Other infections can be dangerous to both the mother and the baby, including:
- Group B streptococcus (GBS)
Antibiotics are often effective in treating syphilis and listeriosis for both the mother and baby, provided the infection is diagnosed quickly. Viral hepatitis cannot be treated with antibiotics, but there are vaccines available to protect patients against hepatitis A and B.
HIV is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness. New multi-drug combinations can prolong the lifespan of individuals diagnosed with HIV and improve their quality of life. Caesarean section birth is commonly recommended to reduce the risk of transmission to the infant, and in combination with drug therapies, C-Section births have been shown to reduce the transmission rate of HIV infection from pregnant women to their children.
Every woman nearing the end of her pregnancy should be tested for group B streptococcus. This common infection affects about 1 in 4 women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infection is often transmitted to the infant during a vaginal birth if the bacteria is present. For pregnant women, the bacteria can cause internal inflammation and stillbirth. Newborns infected with the bacteria can develop serious infections, such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis. If left untreated, the infection can cause hearing loss, vision loss, learning disabilities, chronic mental impairments, and other birth defects.
How to Avoid Infections
Avoiding infection can be simple. Small precautions can go a long way towards decreasing the risk of infection. These precautions include:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and hot water, especially after using the restroom, preparing raw meat or vegetables, or being around children.
- Cook meat until it is well-done. Avoid undercooked meats.
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
- Don’t share cups, plates, or utensils with others.
- Stay away from rodents, wild animals, and cat litter trays.
- Practice safe sex, and get regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
- Ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date.
Check in with your doctor regularly, and be sure to schedule an appointment immediately if you have been exposed to a contagious disease or are sick. Diagnosing and treating illnesses quickly is critical to your health and your baby’s wellbeing.
What to Do if My Infection Was Not Diagnosed?
Your doctor has a duty of care to accurately and quickly diagnose your illnesses, using tests and tools to rule out possible causes. If they fail to do so, you can suffer great harm from an untreated condition or infection. Your doctor should diagnose and treat your infection, but if they do not, you may be eligible for compensation. If your doctor’s negligence cause you or your infant harm, contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. They will be able to help you prove negligence and will fight for your case.
If you or your baby has been harmed by an undiagnosed infection, contact our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys. We have been helping victims of medical malpractice since 1978. Our team is dedicated to your best interests. Contact Shrager & Sachs today to schedule your free consultation.