Yes. Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is type of bacterium found in the genital tract and gut that can cause illness in people of all ages, including babies. Also known as baby strep, GBS is extremely dangerous when a pregnant woman has the infection. If GBS is left untreated or treated improperly, it can cause life-threatening problems in the baby, such as pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis. The test for GBS is very easy; the physician takes a swab (Q-tip) and collects a sample from the rectum and vagina. The lab tests the swab for the infection. Since GBS can cause severe injury in a baby, and since 25% of all pregnant women have GBS infection, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women be tested for GBS at weeks 35 – 37 of pregnancy. If a woman is tested prior to week 35, she should be tested again because women can test positively at certain times and not at others. Women with GBS infection often have no signs or symptoms, although GBS can also cause urinary tract infections (UTI’s), which also can cause severe complications in a baby.
Group B Streptococcus Can Cause Serious Health Problems in Babies
In babies infected with GBS – and especially in those who developed meningitis from GBS – there can be permanent consequences, such as deafness, cerebral palsy, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). Approximately 4-6% of babies with GBS infections die. On average, about 1,200 babies in the U.S. less than one week old get early-onset GBS each year, with a higher prevalence in the African-American population. GBS can also cause miscarriages, stillbirths and preterm deliveries, mainly because it can cause chorioamnionitis, an infection of the amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the baby) and the membranes that surround the fetus. It is caused when bacteria starts in the mother’s vagina or anus and moves up to the uterus, causing a fetal inflammatory response which causes brain damage. Chorioamnionitis often occurs when there is prolonged labor and rupture of the membranes (water breaking), but can also occur when the membranes are intact. In addition to causing brain damage such as cerebral palsy and periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), the fetal inflammatory response can cause premature labor.
GBS in a baby can have devastating consequences, but can also easily be treated with antibiotics. When a mother’s water breaks, the baby is exposed to GBS. Antibiotics wipe out the bacteria in the vagina, and the antibiotics transfer to the baby to help fight possible infection.
When a woman tests positively for GBS, the physician should devise a plan to minimize the baby’s exposure to the infection during the birthing process. Antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended for:
- Women who delivered a previous infant with GBS infection
- Women with GBS bacteriuria (bacteria in urine) in the current pregnancy
- Women with a GBS-positive screening result in the current pregnancy
- Women with unknown GBS status who deliver at less than 37 weeks’ gestation, have an intrapartum temperature of 38º C (100.4º F) or greater, or have rupture of membranes for 18 hours or longer.
Penicillin is the preferred antibiotic, and ampicillin is an acceptable alternative.
While antibiotics and other preventative measures may reduce a baby’s chance of contracting GBS, all newborns born to mothers who are GBS carriers should be carefully monitored to identify the earliest manifestations of the infection.
Generally, the type of birth (C-section versus vaginal delivery) does not affect how a physician will proceed with regards to GBS prophylactic treatment. What is most important is whether the baby is exposed to the bacteria and how best to protect the baby from possible infection. If the water remains intact, the baby is not exposed to the bacteria. If the water is broken, the baby is exposed. Penicillin / ampicillin can wipe out the bacteria.
When risk factors for GBS infection are present, it is essential that the physicians monitor the mother and baby very closely and follow guidelines and medical standards of care for treatment and prevention of GBS. It is negligence when a mother and baby are not properly tested for GBS, and when standards for treating the condition are not followed. If GBS infection is not diagnosed and treated right away, it can lead to very serious problems, such as seizures, cerebral palsy, PVL, meningitis, sepsis, blindness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, deafness, speech delays, language delays, or even death. This constitutes medical malpractice.
Award-Winning Detroit, Michigan Birth Injury Attorneys
If your baby had sepsis or meningitis and now has a birth injury such as cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), the birth injury attorneys at ABC Law Centers can help. We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our nationally recognized Michigan birth injury law firm has 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 Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation. Our firm’s award-winning birth injury attorneys are available 24 / 7 to speak with you.
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