Group B strep (GBS aka Baby Strep) is the main cause of meningitis and sepsis in newborns. If left untreated, this bacterial infection can cause serious harm, but with the proper course of treatment, only five percent of newborns exposed to the bacteria will develop GBS disease.
One out of four pregnant women carries GBS bacteria in their vagina or rectum, although some pregnant women remain free of symptoms (vaginal burning or irritation, unusual vaginal discharge, or bladder infections), making infection a silent risk for newborns.
Symptoms of a baby infected with GBS include red or tender skin, discolored skin due to lack of oxygen, and difficulty breathing. Group B strep in babies can cause sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis and other serious illnesses.
Coupled with the potential impacts of GBS infection on pregnant women (preterm labor and early onset of water breaking), the lack of symptoms led to the U.S. and Canada specifying screening for GBS as the proper standard of care for women who are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant.
The CDC suggests the following for the prevention of GBS:
- Testing of all preterm deliveries
- Closer monitoring and treatment for pregnant women who are allergic to penicillin
- Following the recommended testing guidelines at 35 to 37 weeks pregnant
- Testing of pregnant patients who report bladder infections, unusual vaginal discharge, or vaginal irritation and burning.
Pregnant patients and their families should be aware of these recommendations and check with their doctor to ensure compliance.