When people think of infant brain damage, usually one of this first things that comes to mind is oxygen deprivation shortly after birth. Although infant oxygen loss accounts for some brain damage causes, a new study reveals that maternal infections may play a bigger part than most think.
According to a study performed by a panel that included experts in pediatrics, neurology, fetal-maternal medicine, and obstetrics, infant brain damage, in some cases, is caused due to maternal infection during pregnancy, and sometimes before conception.
The study, entitled “Neonatal Encephalopathy and Neurologic Outcome,” is an updated version of previous study conducted in 2003. However, the 2003 study, which also focused on the cause of infant brain damage, mostly targeted infant oxygen loss and asphyxia, whereas the new study focused on maternal infection and how certain types increase the risk of infant brain damage. In addition, another main focal point of the new study is the advances in treatment options and diagnosis.
Some of the main maternal infections found to play a part in infant brain damage include infections in the foetal membranes, hyperthyroidism, abnormalities with the placenta, bleeding during pregnancy, and infant stroke during birth. In fact, according to the previous study, asphyxiation and loss of oxygen in infants during birth only accounts for 10% or less of all infant brain damage cases.
When determining if infant oxygen loss is the main culprit, several factors are involved, including:
- A low Apgar score between 5 to minutes after delivery
- Acidemia in the umbilical cord artery
- Failure of any major organ
- An MRI scan showing patterns for cerebral palsy
If the aforementioned symptoms aren’t present at birth, then there is a good chance that maternal infections may have played a major role in the brain damage. The good news, however, that if maternal infections are detected, diagnosed, and treated in time, the risk for infant brain damage is greatly reduced. Other infections that increase the risk of infant brain damage include:
- Rubella: Pregnant women should always be tested for rubella. If not yet pregnant, women who’ve never had a rubella vaccination should get one immediately.
- Syphilis: Syphilis is usually treated with a penicillin vaccination. A physician should detect and treat syphilis immediately.
- Varicella: Also known as chickenpox, varicella is dangerous who those who haven’t been vaccinated, especially adults. If you haven’t been vaccinated, tell your physician right away.
Keep in mind that physicians are obligated to detect, diagnose, and treat most maternal infections. If you feel your doctor neglected to provide the proper care during pregnancy, causing brain injury of any kind, including brain damage, you have the right to obtain legal representation and hold the responsible party accountable. If you’re pregnant now, it’s important to tell your physician of any known infections, illnesses, and what vaccinations you don’t have yet.