July is International Group B Strep Disease Awareness Month! Do you know the facts about Group B strep (GBS)? According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), group B strep is the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns. GBS can also cause miscarriages, stillbirths, preterm births, and infect babies up to several months of age.
How it Spreads
In cases of early-onset disease (occurs in babies younger than 1 week old), group B strep bacteria are most often passed from mother to baby during labor and birth. Antibiotics given to the mother during labor can be very effective at preventing the spread of group B strep bacteria to the baby.
Late-onset disease (occurs in babies 1 week through 3 months old) is sometimes due to passing of the bacteria from mother to newborn, but the bacteria may come from another source. For a baby whose mother does not test positive for group B strep bacteria, the source of infection for late-onset disease can be hard to figure out and is often unknown. CDC collects information on babies with late-onset disease in 10 states to better understand how group B strep bacteria are spread.
Some pregnant women are at an increased risk of having a baby who develops early-onset group B strep disease. Some risk factors include:
- Testing positive for group B strep bacteria late in the current pregnancy (35-37 weeks pregnant)
- Detecting group B strep bacteria in urine (pee) during the current pregnancy
- Delivering early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
- Developing a fever during labor
- Having a long time between water breaking and delivering (18 hours or more)
- Having a previous baby who developed early-onset disease
The risk factors for late-onset group B strep disease are not as well understood as those for early-onset disease. Late-onset disease is more common among babies who are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Babies whose mothers tested positive for group B strep bacteria also are at increased risk of late-onset disease.
The symptoms of group B strep disease can seem like other health problems in newborns and babies. Most newborns with early-onset disease (occurs in babies younger than 1 week old) have symptoms on the day of birth. Babies who develop late-onset disease may appear healthy at birth and develop symptoms of group B strep disease after the first week through the first three months of life.
Some symptoms include:
- Difficulty feeding
- Irritability or lethargy (limpness or hard to wake up the baby)
- Difficulty breathing
- Blue-ish color to skin
For both early- and late-onset group B strep disease, and particularly for babies who had meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord), there may be long-term problems such as deafness and developmental disabilities. Care for sick babies has improved a lot in the United States. However, 2 to 3 out of every 50 babies (4 to 6%) who develop group B strep disease will die.
On average, about 1,000 babies in the United States get early-onset group B strep disease each year (see ABCs website for more surveillance information), with rates higher among prematurely born babies (born before 37 weeks) and blacks. Group B strep bacteria may also cause some miscarriages, stillbirths, and preterm deliveries. However, there are many different factors that lead to stillbirth, pre-term delivery, or miscarriage and, most of the time, the cause is not known.
The Family Ties Birthing Center located at Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon, Georgia works closely with your gynecologist/obstetrician to ensure you and your baby have the best experience possible. Our birthing center provides each patient a family-centered childbirth experience and outstanding medical care. From prenatal care to maternal fetal medicine to midwifery, our hospital is a full-service maternity center.