What to Do If Your Newborn Has Suffered an Infection
Before, during, and just after birth is a vulnerable period for a mother and her newborn. It is easy to focus on the physical aspects of delivery and forget about the other dangers of childbirth. Unless proper precautions are taken, a newborn can be exposed to dangerous bacteria and suffer long-term consequences. Mothers can transfer harmful infections to babies and newborns can come into contact with life-threatening bacteria in the delivery room.
Infections Contracted in the Delivery Room
There are many steps that must be taken by healthcare providers to protect newborns from bacterial infections. Medical professionals must:
- Sterilize the equipment. Forceps, vacuums, scalpels, and other medical equipment needed during labor must be properly sterilized in advance.
- Wear clean gowns. Fresh rubber gloves and clean gowns must be worn. Doctors should also avoid going from one delivery to another without first making sure they are clean.
- Apply antiseptic to the baby’s umbilical cord. This will help prevent a cord infection.
- Wash the baby. Once the child’s body temperature has stabilized, the remaining placenta and other body fluids must be washed off.
- Remove excess fluid. The fluid from the baby’s nose, mouth, and throat should be removed right away.
- Administer protections. The baby should receive eye drops or ointments to prevent infections.
- Use extra care after a Caesarean section. Babies born through Caesarean section must be thoroughly cleaned to ensure that they are not exposed to any bacterium that was near the location of the incision.
Infections Transferred from Mother to Infant
It is possible for a pregnant woman to transfer infectious diseases to her fetus through the placenta. Some newborns have to fight off rubella, toxoplasmosis, and herpes. In such cases, the newborn may experience inflammation, which can damage the central nervous system.
However, it can prove difficult to determine if the baby suffered damage from an infection the mother had or from dangerous bacteria that was present in the delivery room.
There are many different types of infections that can prove dangerous to infants. Common examples of neonatal infections include:
- Group B streptococcus can result in pneumonia, sepsis, fever, and difficulties with breathing.
- Listeriosis can lead to pneumonia, sepsis, or meningitis.
- E. coli is a bacterium that can lead to fever, listlessness, and a lack of interest in feeding.
- Congenital infections such as HIV, rubella, chickenpox, herpes, syphilis, cytomegalovirus, or toxoplasmosis. In such cases, the baby may show signs right away or may not exhibit symptoms for weeks or months.
Signs of Infection
There are many observable signs of infection that should motivate hospital personnel to immediately test and treat the child. These symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Difficulty breathing
- Poor feeding
- Fluctuations in body temperature
- Unusual skin rashes and discoloration
- Persistent crying
- Unusual irritability
- Marked change in behavior
Take your baby to the hospital right away if you notice any of these symptoms.
Understanding Your Rights
It is important to carefully review and analyze the circumstances that led to the birth infection. If the negligence of hospital or medical staff was to blame, then the child and family may be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault party. A successful medical malpractice claim can result in financial compensation for losses such as medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and cost of continued treatment and care.
Our experienced birth injury lawyers are here to ensure that your child’s legal rights and best interests are protected. The failure to promptly diagnose and treat infections at birth can have catastrophic consequences. There may even be cases where infections prove fatal for children.