An undiagnosed or untreated maternal infection can be transmitted to the fetus during any stage of pregnancy or during the birth of the baby, causing severe infant illness and fetal death.

Undiagnosed Maternal Infections

Maternal infections during pregnancy are not uncommon. They can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi that invade the mother’s body through various ways. Although most are not dangerous when properly diagnosed and treated by a doctor, if left untreated they can cause pregnancy complications, severe illnesses, and infectious diseases in newborns, as well as fetal or infant death.

Pregnant women are more susceptible to infections due to naturally suppressed immune systems. Infections can invade the body through tainted food and water, skin and blood infections, insect bites, airborne droplets, and sexual contact. Certain organisms endanger both the mother and the developing fetus, while others only endanger the fetus. Maternal infections can pass to the fetus during pregnancy or during labor and delivery. The most common maternal infections seen by a birth injury lawyer include:

Viral Infections

Viral infections commonly lead to respiratory problems which can be dangerous during the early stages of pregnancy. They often result in anemia, miscarriage, and birth defects. Common viral infections include Chickenpox, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Parvovirus, and Rubella. CMV is linked to infant deafness. Parvovirus is linked to congestive heart failure. Rubella can lead to diabetes.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections in babies can lead to serious illnesses such as Listeria and Salmonella and contagious diseases including Gonorrhea, Streptococcal disease, and Syphilis. In addition to severe complications, these bacterial infections can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, infant deformities, and fetal death.


Chorioamnionitis, an infection of the amniotic fluid and placental tissues, is rarely seen in full-term births. It’s more common in premature births. Chorioamnionitis is caused by blood infections, E.coli contamination, and streptococcus.


Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by exposure to a parasite, is extremely dangerous for a pregnant mother and a developing fetus. It’s often contracted by handling or eating raw or undercooked meat, contaminated soil, and human or animal feces. It causes some of the most severe infant disabilities and neurological problems seen by birth injury lawyers.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections are a leading cause of illness and death for infants. Approximately 8,000 pregnant women become infected with HIV each year, and 25 percent pass the infection to their babies. Infections can be transmitted to a baby during pregnancy or delivery.

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