It’s estimated that about one pregnant woman in five in the UK has GBS in their digestive system or their vagina. Most go on to have perfectly healthy babies. However, there is a small risk that GBS bacteria can pass to the baby during childbirth.
In extremely rare cases, GBS in babies can cause very serious complications that can be life threatening. Strep B infections in babies should be treated immediately to prevent long-term, severe damage.
What is 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.
Early-onset symptoms include:
- 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.
What are the GBS risk factors?
Some pregnant women are at higher risk of having a baby with early-onset GBS. The factors that increase the risk include:
- Testing positive for GBS late in pregnancy (35-37 weeks gestation)
- Detecting GBS in urine during pregnancy
- Delivering early (before 37 weeks gestation)
- Developing a fever during labour
- Having a long period between the waters breaking and delivering the baby
- Previous experience of having a baby with early-onset GBS
What complications does GBS 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).
How is early-onset GBS prevented?
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 GBS to the baby and effective preventative treatment can be provided.
What is late-onset GBS?
Late-onset GBS infection develops seven or more days after a baby is born and is not usually associated with pregnancy. In these cases, 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.
Is compensation available if GBS diagnosis is missed or delayed?
Where signs and risks of Strep B infection are missed, or even dismissed as being another less serious condition after your baby is born, treatment may be delayed. In either case, delayed treatment can result in serious injuries that could have been avoided and there may be a case for a medical negligence compensation claim.
How can Novum Law help?
As specialist medical negligence lawyers, we offer free advice on claims of this kind. We have experience representing clients with babies that have suffered serious neurological injuries and irreversible brain damage due to a GBS infection that was not properly prevented or appropriately treated.
If you believe that you or any member of your family has a potential medical negligence claim due to GBS, let us assess your case. You can rest assured that we will deal with your enquiry without any initial cost or obligation.
Call or email us to book a free ‘no strings attached’ consultation in complete confidence. We can advise you on how to proceed with your claim on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.