Can GBS cause birth injuries?

Yes. Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterium found in the genital tract and gut that can cause illness in people of all ages, including babies. If GBS in a pregnant woman is left untreated or is treated improperly, it can cause life-threatening problems in the baby, including pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. These infections can lead to lifelong disabilities such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), and seizure disorders. 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 between weeks 35 – 37 of pregnancy (1). Women can test positive for GBS at certain times and not at others, so women tested prior to week 35 should be tested again between weeks 35 and 37.


Group B streptococcus can cause serious health problems in babies
Can GBS cause birth injuries?

Infant GBS is estimated to occur in 0.5 cases per 1,000 live births (2). GBS has been found to cause such devastating fetal consequences as (2):

  • Sepsis
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Focal infection
  • Bone/joint infection
  • Cellulitis-adenitis
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Preterm delivery

Management of GBS

GBS can easily be managed with intravenous (IV) antibiotics such as penicillin and ampicillin, which minimize the baby’s exposure to infection during the birthing process and help the baby fight possible infection.  

Antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended for (3):

  • Women who delivered a previous infant with GBS infection
  • 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.

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 mother’s water – the fluid that fills the amniotic sac surrounding the baby – remains intact, the baby is not exposed to the bacteria. If the water “breaks,” then the baby will be exposed (3). 

While antibiotics and other preventative measures significantly reduce a baby’s chance of contracting GBS, all newborns born to mothers who are GBS carriers should be carefully monitored to identify and treat the earliest signs of infection. 

When risk factors for GBS infection are present, it is essential that the physicians monitor the mother and baby very closely and follow standards of care for prevention and treatment 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 this negligence causes harm, it constitutes medical malpractice.

Award-Winning Detroit, Michigan Birth Injury AttorneysBirth Injury Law | Reiter & Walsh, PC

If your baby had GBS and now has a birth injury such as HIE, CP, or a seizure disorder, the attorneys at ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) 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 firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success and no fees are ever paid to our firm ­unless we win your case. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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Related Resources

Sources:

  1. Group B Strep Infection: GBS. 21 May 2020, americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/group-b-strep-infection/.
  2. Puopolo, Karen, and Carol Baker. Group B Streptococcal Infection in Neonates and Young Infants. www.uptodate.com/contents/group-b-streptococcal-infection-in-neonates-and-young-infants?topicRef=438.
  3. Baker, C. J. (31, August). Neonatal group B streptococcal disease: Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/neonatal-group-b-streptococcal-disease-prevention.