Chorioamnionitis

Quick Answer

Chorioamnionitis is an infection during pregnancy that affects the amniotic fluid and sac where fetuses develop. The infection usually starts in the mother’s urinary tract and then moves to the fetus. If it is not detected before labor, chorioamnionitis can be extremely dangerous to the mother and baby. Without proper treatment, chorioamnionitis can cause meningitis, sepsis, or even death.

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What Is Chorioamnionitis?

Chorioamnionitis is an infection of the amniotic fluid in the placenta. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chorioamnionitis affects up to 2% of pregnancies, meaning most women will not get it. However, the infection can have serious complications for both an expectant mother and her unborn baby.

When chorioamnionitis infects both the mother and her fetus, the baby will most likely have to be delivered as soon as it is safely possible. Infections that spread to the placenta may result in preterm delivery, increasing the risk of the child developing cerebral palsy.

A study at the University of California at San Francisco found that full-term babies who were exposed to chorioamnionitis in the womb were four times more likely to develop cerebral palsy.

If chorioamnionitis is not detected and properly treated, it may spread to the baby’s brain and spine, increasing the risk of meningitis. It can also spread to the bloodstream, causing sepsis. Both conditions can be deadly for an infant.

Chorioamnionitis Causes and Risk Factors

Chorioamnionitis is more likely to develop when the amniotic sac breaks earlier than usual before a baby is born. The infection usually starts in the mother’s urinary tract and then moves into the uterus where the fetus is. Once the amniotic sac is broken, bacteria in the vagina can move into the uterus.

Risk factors that may lead to chorioamnionitis include:

  • Alcohol or tobacco use
  • Epidural anesthesia being used
  • Frequent vaginal exams during labor
  • Group B strep
  • Internal fetal monitoring being performed
  • Long labor
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Vaginal infections

Although chorioamnionitis is sometimes unavoidable, it should be diagnosed and treated before labor and delivery. When the signs and symptoms of neonatal infections are undetected by the delivery team, it may be considered medical negligence.

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Chorioamnionitis Symptoms

There are several common signs and symptoms of chorioamnionitis to look out for, but each case may vary. Additionally, in some cases, there will be no symptoms.

Chorioamnionitis symptoms may include:

  • High temperature
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat for mother and/or fetus
  • Soreness or pain in the uterus
  • Sweating
  • Vaginal discharge with an unusual smell

It is very important to be seen by your health care provider if you develop any of the symptoms above. Since many of these symptoms may occur due to other conditions, getting the proper diagnosis and treatment can be critical to your child’s health.

Diagnosing Chorioamnionitis

To diagnose chorioamnionitis, your doctor will ask you about your past health history and any symptoms you are currently experiencing, as well as perform a physical exam.

In order to detect the presence of any harmful bacteria, your doctor may recommend an amniocentesis, which involves using a needle to take a small amount of amniotic fluid to analyze. A lab test may also be performed to check for infection.

In some cases, a doctor may use ultrasound to monitor the health of the fetus.

Complications from Chorioamnionitis

Chorioamnionitis complications can be very dangerous. One common complication is bacteremia, which is a dangerous blood infection in the mother that can cause the baby to be born early.

Chorioamnionitis Complications for NewbornsChorioamnionitis Complications for Mothers
Brain damageBlood clots in the pelvis and lungs
MeningitisEndometritis
PneumoniaInfections in the pelvic region
Respiratory problemsInfections in the abdomen
SepsisSepsis
Death

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chorioamnionitis is a common cause of both newborn and maternal illness and death.

Chorioamnionitis Treatment Options

Treatment for chorioamnionitis varies based on the symptoms, general health, and age of the mother, as well as the severity of the infection.

If a mother is diagnosed with chorioamnionitis, antibiotics may be prescribed to help treat the infection. If a neonatal infection is detected, the fetus will need to be treated with antibiotics as well. Doctors may also advise the mother to deliver her baby early, as this may decrease the risk of complications.

Compensation for Chorioamnionitis Related to Medical Negligence

If your delivery team fails to detect and treat chorioamnionitis before your baby is born, it can result in life-threatening complications to both you and your baby. In these cases, medical negligence may be at play, and you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Contact the Birth Injury Justice Center to consult with our experienced team of Patient Advocates and learn more about accessing compensation.

Birth Injury Support Team

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View 5 Sources
  1. The American Pregnancy Association. Cerebral Palsy. (2017). Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/birth-defects/cerebral-palsy-689/
  2. Cedars Sinai. (n.d.) Chorioamnionitis. Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/c/chorioamnionitis.html
  3. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.) Chorioamnionitis. Retrieved February 26, 2021 from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12309-chorioamnionitis#:~:text=What%20are%20the%20causes%20of,where%20the%20fetus%20is%20located
  4. Pimentel, J. D., Meier, F. A., & Samuel, L. P. (2009). Chorioamnionitis and Neonatal Sepsis from Community-associated MRSA. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 15(12), 2069-2071. Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1512.090853
  5. Stanford Children’s Health. (n.d.) Chorioamnionitis. Retrieved February 25, 2021 from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=chorioamnionitis-90-P024
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