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What is Strep B?
Group B Streptococcus, also known as Group B Strep, Strep B or GBS, is one of many bacteria that can be present in our bodies. It usually causes no harm. It’s estimated that about one pregnant woman in five in the UK carries GBS in their digestive system or their vagina. Because of this there is a risk that the bacteria can be passed to babies during pregnancy and birth.
Strep B in pregnancy is not uncommon and most pregnant women who carry GBS bacteria go on to have perfectly healthy babies. However, there is a small risk that GBS can pass to the baby during childbirth. Rarely, Strep B in babies can cause serious complications that can be life threatening.
Strep B infections in babies can be very serious and should be treated immediately to prevent long term injuries.
Streptococcal infection – Early-onset GBS
If a baby develops a GBS infection less than seven days after birth it is known as early-onset GBS infection. Most babies who become infected develop symptoms within 12 hours of birth.
Strep B symptoms:
- Being floppy and unresponsive
- Not feeding well
- High or low temperature
- Fast or slow heart rates
- Fast or slow breathing rates
It is estimated that about 1 in every 2,000 babies born in the UK develops early onset GBS infection.
Strep B Risk factors
Some pregnant women are at higher risk of having a baby with early-onset GBS. The factors that increase risk include:
- Testing positive for late in the current pregnancy (35-37 weeks gestation)
- Detecting in urine during the current pregnancy
- Delivering early (before 37 weeks gestation)
- Developing fever during labour
- Having a long period between water breaking and delivering
- Having a previous baby with early-onset
What complications can it cause?
Most babies who become infected can be treated successfully and will make a full recovery.
However, even with the best medical care the infection can cause life-threatening complications, such as:
- Blood poisoning (septicaemia)
- Infection of the lung (pneumonia)
- Infection of the lining of the brain (meningitis)
One-in-five babies who survive the infection will be affected permanently. Early-onset GBS infection can cause problems such as cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness and serious learning difficulties.
Rarely, GBS can cause infection in the mother. For example, an infection in the womb or urinary tract, or more seriously, an infection that spreads through the blood, causing symptoms to develop throughout the whole body (sepsis).
Preventing early onset GBS
If you have previously had a baby with GBS, your maternity team should monitor the health of your newborn baby closely for at least 12 hours after birth, or treat them with antibiotics until blood tests confirm whether or not GBS is present.
In addition, assessment during the later stages of pregnancy, particularly when there are risk factors, should establish whether there is a risk of transferring to the baby and effective preventative treatment can be provided.
Late-onset GBS infection
Late-onset GBS infection develops seven or more days after a baby is born, not as a result of GBS in pregnancy. The baby probably became infected after the birth. For example, they may have caught the infection from someone else.
Developing this form of Streptococcal infection after three months of age is considered extremely rare.
Missed or delayed Strep B diagnosis
Where signs and risks of Strep B infection are missed, or even dismissed as being another less serious condition, after your baby has been born, treatment may be delayed. In either case delayed treatment can result in serious injuries that could have been avoided.
How can we help?
At Novum Law we offer free initial advice on claims of this kind. If you believe that you or any member of your family have a potential claim then let us assess your case. You can rest assured that we will deal with your enquiry without any initial cost or obligation.