Infections Routinely Screened for During Pregnancy
Certain infections are screened for during pregnancy. Most of the infections included in this list would only be screened for if the mother-to-be and physician felt she was at an increased risk of having contracted it. Also, the woman could request any of the tests she deemed necessary for her health or that of the baby. Some of the infections listed pose a greater risk to the developing fetus than to the mother. Note that there are many more infections that the mother could have- but these are listed as they can cross the placental barrier, or be contracted by the fetus during delivery. The placenta acts as a protective enclosed environment, defending the developing baby against many types of infectious agents.
- Chickenpox, also known as the varicella zoster virus can be contracted by the baby if the mother is contagious during delivery. The great risk of harm is to the mother having chickenpox while pregnant. This of course means that the deteriorating health of the mother can also negatively impact the developing fetus. Pregnant women with chickenpox are much more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia, heart problems, encephalitis, Addison’s disease, and kidney disease. The risk of complications for a woman with chickenpox is mainly in the second half of pregnancy. The risk to the fetus of congenital harm would be in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy.
- Chlamydia is a sexually contracted bacterial infection. It can be easily and effectively treated with antibiotics. Having chlamydia during pregnancy increases the chance of the pregnancy being of the ectopic (embryo has been implanted in a location other than the uterus) variety. There is also an increased risk of preterm labor. The amniotic fluid that surrounds the developing fetus can harbor the chlamydia bacteria. During delivery, if chlamydia bacteria is present, the baby can contract it. This can lead to infant eye infection (conjunctivitis), or an increased risk of the baby developing pneumonia.
- Cytomegalovirus is a virus that the mother may carry that can infect the developing fetus. In very few cases congenitally developed CMV affects the baby by resulting later in learning deficiencies and hearing loss. The baby can also contract CMV during birth or from breast milk.
- The flu virus is more contagious and harmful to people with decreased immune function, this includes women in the second half of pregnancy. Flu could result in pneumonia, pulmonary problems, preterm labor, and birth.
- Fifth disease or parvovirus rarely crosses the placental barrier. In the few cases that it does infect the fetus, miscarriage, stillbirth, hydrops fetalis, or fetal myocarditis can result. The effects on the infected mother are usually minimal.
- Genital warts virus can be contracted by the baby during passage through the vagina during birth. In rare cases where the baby has contracted genital warts and they grow in the throat passages-breathing and eating can be difficult and frequent removal of the recurring warts will be necessary.
- Group B strep is a bacterial infection that can cause serious infection and complications in the mother. The baby can contract group B strep during birth. Having group B strep in infancy is particularly dangerous as the baby has little immune system function. Group B strep is screened for in all women within the last few weeks of pregnancy. It can be treated effectively with antibiotics.
- Genital herpes is a sexually contracted virus that can infect the baby during birth. The herpes virus can result in the baby developing eye or mouth ulcers. Rare serious effects of the herpes virus on the baby can be cerebral palsy, seizures, hearing or vision loss, and learning disabilities.
- HIV/AIDS is a virus that destroys a person’s immune response over time. The distinction in the naming of the virus is dependent on the stage the virus is in (a latent phase-HIV, or the active, acute phase-AIDS). The virus can greatly affect the health of the mother during pregnancy. Decreased vitality of the mother can have negative effects on the developing fetus. Passage of the virus can happen during birth, and it can be transferred to the baby in breast milk also.
- Rubella is the virus responsible for German measles. It is rarely dangerous and most people have been vaccinated for rubella. In pregnant women who are exposed and not previously vaccinated, the virus can cross the placental barrier and can cause much harm to the developing fetus.
- Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection transferred mostly in cat feces that most people have had exposure to with little incidence. Exposure during pregnancy to this parasite can be dangerous to the developing fetus as the parasite attacks nervous tissue and the brain. It does not harm the mother.
Screenings during pregnancy can eliminate many potential problems, mostly for the baby. If you or your baby suffered harm from infection or death due to a physician not offering screenings for suspected infectious conditions during pregnancy, you may be eligible for monetary damages. Call the Sweeney Law Firm and let us review the facts. You may have a medical malpractice case. If we take your case, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there is no cost for representation unless a settlement or recovery of fees is made on your behalf.