Newborn dies from Group B Strep infection: Awareness needed

This can be avoided if routine screening for vaginal Strep B is done for all pregnant women...

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What can Group B Strep do to a baby? Well, a lot actually.

Group B Streptococcus, better known as Group B Strep or GBS, is a bacteria commonly found in the intestines or the lower genital tract.  It is not a sexually transmitted disease. But while it is normally harmless to healthy adults, it can make a newborn seriously ill if contracted. In worst case scenarios, the baby could even die.

This is was what happened to a couple in the UK when their newborn baby girl died from infection only five days after she was born.

Tests for Group B Strep in pregnant women were not available on the Welsh NHS, and mum-to-be Gabby, did not know she was a carrier. She only realised something was not quite right when her baby Amber wasn't moving during cervical sweeps to bring on labour.

They induced Gabby the very next day and Amber was born, weighing in at 11lb 4oz. Sadly, the infection had taken hold, and doctors rushed her to intensive care right away. 

What can Group B Strep do to a baby? Amber was put on medication to regulate her blood pressure, she was suffering from seizures and she was severely brain damaged.

Even though it was an unbearable decision to make, the couple turned off their daughter’s life support machine after doctors said there was nothing more they could do. No parent should have to go through planning for their child's funeral.

What Can Group B Strep Do to a Baby?

Babies who get infected by Group B Strep during labour can become critically ill. The infection usually presents itself in two forms.

A baby with early-onset Group B Strep disease will start getting sick within one week after birth. According to the American Pregnancy Association, signs and symptoms include:

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  • Sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, which are the most common complications
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart and blood pressure instability
  • Gastrointestinal and kidney problems

Babies with late-onset Group B Strep disease however, only start developing symptoms within a week to a few months after birth. Minor symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability

However, meningitis is the most common symptom.

How Can Mums Protect Their Baby from Group B Strep Disease?

No expectant mum wants to see what can Group B Strep do to a baby. 

This is why routine screening for vaginal strep B is crucial for all pregnant women. The test involves screening swabs from both the vagina and rectum between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy. Afterwards, you can get lab results within 24 to 48 hours. 

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To avoid ever finding out what can Group B Strep do to a baby, intravenous antibiotics are given via IV during delivery. This would reduce the chance of your baby becoming sick. Mums are recommended to begin antibiotics at the start of labour and every four hours during active labour until the baby is delivered.

Different factors come into play with a caesarean delivery. If labour hasn't started and/or your water has not broken, then you will not need to be treated for Group B Strep during surgery. However, if you are already in labour and/or your water has broken, you will have to be treated even if you are having a cesarean delivery.

 

Sources: Metro, Mayo Clinic, American Pregnancy Association