Group B Strep Infection
Approximately one in every 2000 babies born in the United States each year contract Strep B infection (SBI). Unlike many other medical conditions that a mother can experience during pregnancy, SBI can go undetected before delivery. The best way to avoid its adverse effects is prevention.
Group B Strep Infection Defined
Although some people believe SBI originates from the same germs that bring on strep throat, this is not the case. In fact, SBI stems from the group B streptococci bacteria. While not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease, GBS is found in the vagina and rectum. Because the condition is often asymptomatic, many women don’t even know they have SBI.
Prevention of Group B Strep Infections
Even though many people who have SBI are asymptomatic and never experience any direct consequences, they are still able to pass the bacteria onto their babies via the birth canal. Therefore, the best way to prevent SBI in newborns is to test all expectant mothers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that this occurs between the 35th and 37th weeks of pregnancy. The SBI test is simple yet effective. It involves the doctor taking a swab of the tissue in a woman’s vagina and rectum and sending it to the lab for analysis. Results from the culture usually come back 24 to 48 hours later.
In the event that a woman tests positive for group B strep bacteria, treatment begins as soon as labor starts. In most cases, antibiotics such as penicillin will be administered through an intravenous (IV) line to cut back on the likelihood of transmission to the baby. Those with penicillin allergies can be given alternative types of antibiotics.
Although every pregnant person should be tested for group B strep, this becomes even more important for those at high risk. People who fall into the below categories should be especially aware that their chances of having SBI are elevated:
- Currently have or have had a urinary tract infection during this or another pregnancy.
- Had GBI during a past pregnancy.
- Go into labor before the 37th week of pregnancy.
- Baby is born more than 18 hours after the water breaks.
- Develop a high fever during labor.
In certain instances, testing is bypassed altogether, with antibiotics being prescribed proactively. This may occur if a woman:
- Previously had a child with GBI.
- Has had GBS in her urine at any time during the pregnancy.
- Has an unknown GBS status and a fever when going into labor.
- Has an unknown GBS status and goes into labor before 37 weeks.
- GBS status is unknown and water broke more than 18 hours previously.
Group B Strep Infection Symptoms
In general, it is important to keep a close eye on a newborn’s health. In most cases, infants with GBI will manifest some or all of the following symptoms during that initial time window:
- Breathing difficulties.
- Grunting noises.
- Bluish tinge to the skin.
- Difficulty feeding.
- Abnormalities in blood pressure or heart rate.
- Excessive fussiness.
Additionally, the bacteria can infect the baby later, sometimes as long as three months after birth. In this late-onset form of GBI, babies can contract it either from their mother or from other people who have the infection. GBI can be readily diagnosed via various means, including chest X-rays and through the analysis of blood, urine and cerebrospinal fluid.
GBI’s Effects on Babies
Although some infants will experience no symptoms, the condition can have serious consequences for many children. Possible outcomes include:
- Pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
- Sepsis (infection in the blood).
- Meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain or spinal cord).
- Stillborn death.
Treating Moms and Babies with Strep B
If a pregnant person is found to be SBI-positive during pregnancy, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics during labor that cut down on the numbers of bacteria in the birth canal and minimize the chances that the baby will be exposed. If the child does become infected, a course of antibiotics is begun immediately to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Group B Strep Prognosis
For most babies who contract GBI, the prognosis is positive. However, some children, particularly those who contract meningitis, may experience long-term debilitating effects, including deafness and brain damage.
The best way to improve a baby’s prognosis is quick diagnosis and treatment of SBI with antibiotics such as penicillin and ampicillin. Even so, there may be times when a child experiences long-term traumatic consequences stemming from GBI. If you believe that this infection was not properly treated in you or your baby, thus causing suffering and serious illness, you may be entitled to financial damages. A law firm specializing in birth injuries can evaluate your unique situation to determine whether you have a case. This no-obligation consultation is free and can be invaluable as you plan your next steps in obtaining the justice you and your baby deserve.