Group B Strep in Pregnancy and How It Can Affect Your Baby

Group B strep (GBS) is a harmless bacterium that is often found in the vagina and rectum of healthy women. It is not a sexually transmitted disease. In the United States, approximately 25% of women are carriers of GBS and have no symptoms at all. However, if this harmless bacterium is passed from mother to baby during labor and delivery, it can cause serious catastrophic illnesses or brain damage in the newborn. The GBS infection is known to cause meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis or overwhelming infection, and even death in a newborn. The nice thing is that Group B strep infections in a newborn are preventable or treatable.

Every pregnant woman needs to be tested to see if they are a carrier of the Group B strep bacterium even if they did not test positive with prior pregnancies. Testing is usually performed in between 35 - 37 weeks gestation or in the 9th month of the pregnancy. If you test positive for GBS you will need to talk with you doctor or midwife about a plan for labor and delivery. Many times, an antibiotic will be administered at the onset of labor. If you have not had a GBS test when labor begins, remind the doctor or delivery room staff that you do not know your GBS status.

It is estimated that approximately 1 in every 200 babies born whose mothers were not treated with antibiotics for GBS, go on to develop signs and symptoms of the Group B strep disease. Newborns that are infected with GBS may show one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Stressed or jittery
  • Grunting with breathing
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Apnea or periods without breathing
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Very fast or very slow heart rate
  • Cyanosis or a bluish discoloration to the skin or fingernails
  • Limp or lethargic
  • Poor feeding
  • Difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature

If the Group B strep infection in a newborn is not promptly diagnosed and treated, it could lead to meningitis, pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypoglycemia or low blood sugar or disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) which is a condition that causes abnormal blood clotting, seizures, liver failure, kidney failure, blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, and many other complications including death.

When you are pregnant it is very important to know your GBS status. It is just as equally important to discuss your options with your physician prior to labor and delivery. If you are GBS positive and do not receive antibiotics prior to a vaginal delivery or after your water breaks, it could lead to a serious Group B step infection in your newborn.

Unfortunately, our experienced legal and medical teams here at the Philadelphia birth injury lawyers at The Beasley Firm have seen the catastrophic injuries an untreated GBS infection can cause in a newborn. If your baby was injured due to a Group B strep infection that was not properly treated, please feel free to call us at (215) 866-2424 for a risk-free consultation.


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