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Bacterial infection: chorioamnionitis, amnionitis, premature birth danger

Chorioamnionitis or amnionitis is an inflammation of the fetal membrane caused by a bacterial infection.

The fetal membrane and amniotic fluid protects the fetus. Chorioamnionitis happens in 1 or 2 percent of all pregnancies but is more common in preterm births. Chorioamnionitis may cause a blood infection for the mother and can lead to preterm birth and serious infection for the newborn.

What causes premature rupture of membranes?

Premature rupture of membrane or PROM happens when a woman’s water breaks before she gets to the hospital. This is a fairly common occurrence happening in one out of 10 pregnancies.

Pelvic examinations during the last three months of pregnancy contribute to premature rupture of membranes. Also previous occurrences with water breaking, chlamydia infections, and past and current smokers put women at risk for premature rupture.

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What are the causes of chorioamnionitis?

Causes include bacteria from the vagina or rectum that find their way in the volatile pre-birth uterus causing chorioamnionitis. Some of these bacteria are Group B streptococci (GBS), E. Coli, and bacterial vaginosis.

What is amnionitis?

Amnionitis is an infection of the uterus, the amniotic sac, and sometimes, infection of the fetus. Amnionitis occurs in about 5 percent of pregnancies. Normally a sterile environment, the uterus does not contain bacteria or viruses. Yet, certain conditions can make the uterus susceptible to infection. Watch out because when it happens, infection of the uterus is a serious condition because treatment cannot occur without delivering the baby. What makes the situation more worrisome is when the baby is premature.

Treatments for amnionitis

Once diagnosed, delivery must occur immediately, regardless of the due date.

Even the most powerful antibiotics cannot successfully treat an infection in the uterus while the fetus, membranes, and placenta remain inside.

Medications may be given to speed up labor if the patient has already started contracting. Cesarean section should be performed only when necessary. Infection can affect the uterus’ ability to contract and can increase the likelihood of needing a cesarean delivery. A pediatrician or neonatologist must be present as amnionitis frequently presents labor complexities.

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More frightening though rare, 5 percent of newborns are septic at delivery creating a life-threatening bloodstream infection requiring emergency measures that a pediatric team must be well equipped to undertake.

Has your wife and child suffered serious injury from misdiagnosing bacterial infections while pregnant? Did the hospital or delivery team fail to take the precautions during birth? Can you file a medical malpractice lawsuit?