About one in 50 pregnant women develop an infection in the amniotic fluid, which is known as chorioamnionitis. This can create a medical emergency that demands immediate delivery if both the mother and the child are infected. Chorioamnionitis may increase the risk of cerebral palsy and brain damage. Sometimes the infection can cause meningitis if it reaches the brain or the spine of the child, or it may cause sepsis if it enters the bloodstream. Other complications for children may include pneumonia and respiratory conditions. Meanwhile, a mother may suffer from some of the following complications:
Pelvic or abdominal infections
Blood clots in the pelvis or lungs
Bacteremia (a blood infection that can lead to preterm birth)
Endometritis (inflammation of the uterine lining)
Sepsis (a body-wide inflammation that may cause organ failure)
Chorioamnionitis is often associated with a urinary tract infection and may occur when the amniotic sac breaks earlier than normal. This allows bacteria to travel from the vagina to the uterus. Issues linked to this condition include vaginal infections, sexually transmitted diseases, Group B strep, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Risk factors more specific to pregnancy and childbirth include prolonged labor, epidural anesthesia, and internal fetal monitoring.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Chorioamnionitis
Some women will not experience any symptoms from chorioamnionitis. Others may suffer from fever, sweating, or pain in the uterus. The mother or the fetus, or both, may develop a rapid heartbeat. Sometimes a doctor may suspect chorioamnionitis if a mother reports discharging fluid from her vagina that smells strange. However, some of these symptoms overlap with other conditions, so a doctor will want to carefully evaluate a pregnant woman before confirming chorioamnionitis. As with many other pregnancy complications, a doctor may perform an ultrasound scan to check for any problems with the baby.
As part of testing for chorioamnionitis, a doctor may conduct an amniocentesis. This procedure involves extracting amniotic fluid from the uterus with a needle. A doctor can test the fluid for bacteria that may indicate an infection.
Treatment for Chorioamnionitis
A pregnant woman who has developed chorioamnionitis may receive antibiotics to fight the bacteria that are causing the infection. The baby also may receive antibiotics if the infection has spread to them. In some cases, a woman may need to plan for a preterm birth to prevent the potentially serious and life-threatening complications of this condition.
Compensation for Medical Errors Involving Chorioamnionitis
Chorioamnionitis sometimes cannot be prevented, and the condition is not always obvious at first. However, a doctor should be able to identify and address chorioamnionitis before childbirth starts. If a doctor fails to diagnose this condition and provide prompt treatment, they may be liable for medical malpractice. This means that they did not follow the procedures that a competent doctor would have followed, which resulted in a missed or delayed diagnosis and potentially untreated or inadequately treated chorioamnionitis.
Medical malpractice cases are more technical and complex than most ordinary personal injury claims. A patient likely will need to provide expert testimony to show that malpractice occurred. They also may need to submit an affidavit of merit at or near the beginning of the case. In this document, a medical expert asserts that the case has a solid foundation, based on the medical records. An experienced birth injury attorney can help a plaintiff retain experts and gather the necessary documents and evidence.
Compensation for Malpractice
If a medical malpractice claim succeeds, a family may recover compensation for the costs of treatment for the mother, the child, or both. They also may get non-economic damages, which may cover harm such as pain and suffering.