Group B Strep (GBS) is the Leading Cause of Sepsis & Meningitis in a Newborn | Cerebral Palsy Lawyers

Award-Winning Cerebral Palsy Lawyers Helping Children Affected by Birth Injuries such as Sepsis, Meningitis, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) & Cerebral Palsy caused by Chorioamnionitis, Group B Strep (GBS), Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) & Other Pregnancy Infections | Serving Michigan & All 50 States

If a mother has Group B Strep (GBS) during delivery, it can be passed on to the baby during birth.  This is extremely dangerous because GBS can cause sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia in the newborn, which can cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizures and cerebral palsy.  In fact, GBS is one of the leading causes of neonatal death worldwide, and 25% of mothers pass it to their babies during delivery.

It is the standard of care for physicians to screen all mothers for GBS during their 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  Nonetheless, 1/4th of all pregnant women will pass GBS on to their babies at birth.  A researcher from the University of Alabama, Naryana Sthanam, was recently awarded $1 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the transmission of this bacterium that about 40% of women carry, but which can become deadly if passed on to a baby.  Specifically, Dr. Sthanam will be studying the complement system, which is part of the immune system.  When the complement system is activated, it typically facilitates quick elimination of pathogens, such as GBS.  Sometimes, however, the complement system cooperates in the survival of the pathogen, leading to life-threatening infections such as sepsis and meningitis.


Cerebral palsy lawyers helping children affected by sepsis, meningitis, HIE & cerebral palsy.The award-winning birth injury lawyers at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have helped hundreds of children affected by hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy. Michigan attorney Jesse Reiter, president of ABC Law Centers, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 28 years, and most of his cases involve hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy.  Partners Jesse Reiter and Rebecca Walsh are currently recognized as two of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2015, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the nation.  The attorneys at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).  In fact, Jesse is one of only 2 attorneys in Michigan to have been elected Chair of the BTLG.

If your child experienced a birth injury such as sepsis, meningitis, HIE, seizures or cerebral palsy, contact Reiter & Walsh today at 888-419-2229.  Our award-winning cerebral palsy lawyers are available 24/7 to speak with you.


Group B Strep is a bacterium that is part of the normal flora of the genital tract.  A woman has a GBS infection when a swab sample from the vagina or rectum tests positively for GBS (samples from both areas should be taken).

Group B Strep is very easy to treat.  When a mother has a GBS infection, she should be given antibiotics such as penicillin or ampicillin.  When antibiotics are given, they will wipe out the bacteria in the vagina, and they will transfer to the baby to help her fight a possible infection.  The key is for physicians to quickly recognize and treat GBS in the mother so exposure is minimized in the baby.  All expecting mothers are screened for GBS.  Additional screening should take place if the mother has any risk factors for GBS.  However, since GBS poses such severe dangers for the baby, physicians should start to treat a GBS infection even if it is suspected; treatment should be initiated while waiting for lab results.

Risk factor for GBS include the following:

  • Labor or membrane rupture before 37 weeks gestation
  • Membrane rupture more than 18 hours before delivery
  • Urinary tract infection with GBS during pregnancy
  • Previous baby with GBS infection
  • Fever during labor
  • Positive culture for GBS colonization at 35 – 37 weeks

All babies born to mothers who have GBS must be very closely monitored for the earliest manifestations of a GBS infection.  In newborns with early-onset GBS, the signs and symptoms usually develop within the first 24 hours of life.  Babies who develop late-onset GBS infection are often healthy and thriving, with the signs and symptoms of the disease developing after the first week of life.

Signs and symptoms of GBS infection in babies include:

  • Fever or variation in body temperature
  • Breathing problems / grunting sounds
  • Apnea (periods without breathing)
  • Cyanosis (bluish coloring of the skin)
  • Seizures
  • Limpness or stiffness
  • Heart rate and blood pressure abnormalities
  • Difficulty latching on to the mother’s breast or feeding
  • Irritability and fussiness / unusually anxious behavior


Improper treatment of Group B Strep can lead to sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis in the baby, which can cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizures and cerebral palsy.  GBS and other maternal infections, such as those that cause chorioamnionitis, can be transmitted to the baby through the amniotic fluid or during vaginal delivery.  The infection can cause the baby to have a severe blood infection and whole-body inflammatory response called sepsis.  When a baby has sepsis, the infection can directly enter the baby’s central nervous system or cause inflammation in the brain, both of which can cause meningitis.  Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

Meningitis can cause fluid build-up in the brain (edema), increased pressure in the brain (increased intracranial pressure), brain abscesses (pus-filled pockets), hydrocephalus, cerebral infarction and stroke.  These conditions are extremely damaging to the brain and can cause permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy.

Signs of meningitis include the following:

  • Failure to respond to antibiotic therapy
  • Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Respiratory depression
  • Bulging soft spot
  • Fast head growth
  • Separation of parts of the skull (separation of cranial sutures)
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Seizures

When meningitis occurs, it must be treated as soon as possible to try and minimize brain injury.

Sepsis can be very harmful to the baby even if it doesn’t cause meningitis.  Sepsis can cause the baby to go into shock, which means her blood flow and blood pressure are severely hindered.  This occurs when sepsis causes the blood to move out of the blood vessels and into a space next to the vessels, which means the blood is then not useful for important functions, such as oxygen, glucose and nutrient transport.  Low blood pressure and poor perfusion can cause serious heart problems.  Septic shock can cause a severe lack of blood flow to the baby’s brain, which can cause brain injury and cerebral palsy.  Thus, in addition to antibiotic treatment for sepsis, physicians must give fluid therapy when a baby is in shock to increase the baby’s blood pressure and blood volume.  Volume expansion therapy includes crystalloids or colloids (such as blood) to help improve circulation, blood return to the heart, and the amount of blood the heart pumps out to the body.  Failure to quickly treat shock can not only cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizures and cerebral palsy, but it can cause death.

Signs of septic shock include multiple organ dysfunction, heart and blood flow problems and oxygenation problems.  The serious medical issues that occur when a baby is in shock can perpetuate each other and create additional problems.

Listed below are some of the things a baby may experience if she has septic shock.

  • Use of a breathing machine called a ventilator.  This is especially likely if the baby has pneumonia and / or respiratory distress.
  • Fever
  • Hypothermia (baby’s core body temperature is lower than normal)
  • Very fast or very slow heart rate
  • Cool extremities
  • Very fast breathing, very slow breathing, or periods whereby breathing stops for 20 seconds or more (apnea)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Altered mental state (baby is irritable, anxious, lethargic, overly sleepy or apneic)
  • Sunken eyes
  • Decreased urine output

The breathing problems associated with septic shock can cause overventilation injuries if the settings on the baby’s ventilator are not properly managed.  A very common overventilation injury occurs when the vent causes the baby to hyperventilate, which causes her to have low carbon dioxide levels.  This can lead to reduced blood flow in the brain, brain damage and resultant periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral palsy.


Sepsis, septic shock, meningitis, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizure disorders, periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral palsy are very sad conditions to see in a baby.  The award-winning lawyers at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers focus exclusively on birth injury cases.  Helping children is our sole focus.  Attorney Jesse Reiter, president of ABC Law Centers, is the only attorney in Michigan who has spent his entire 28+ year career focusing on birth injury cases.  Jesse helps children in Michigan and throughout the nation, and once he takes a case, he spends a great deal of time getting to know the child and family he is helping so he can fully understand the child’s needs.

Jesse has won many awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in America by U.S. News and World Report 2015, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine.  Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is recognized as one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the nation by U.S. News and World Report 2015.

The birth injury lawyers at Reiter & Walsh have decades of experience with birth injury cases.  To find out if you have a case, contact our nationally recognized firm to speak with an experienced attorney.  We handle cases in Michigan, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation.  We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case.  Email or call us at 888-419-2229.  Our firm’s award-winning cerebral palsy lawyers are available 24 / 7 to take your call.  We give personal attention to each child and family we represent.

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