Preventing Baby Strep

10 02 2011

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.

Flu and Newborns

5 11 2008

In September of 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine printed an article by Dr. Mark Steinhoff and colleagues titled Effectiveness of Maternal Influenza Immunization in Mothers and Infants.

The study and its results present a compelling case for vaccination of pregnant women to protect both mothers and infants against influenza.  In the article, Dr. Steinhoff et al. note, “Inactivated influenza vaccine is recommended for pregnant women but is not licensed for infants younger than 6 months of age.”  If a pregnant mother doesn’t get vaccinated, this leaves the infant unprotected during the first six months of life. 

This study found that if a mother is vaccinated while pregnant, the “inactivated influenza vaccine reduced proven influenza illness by 63 percent in infants up to 6 months of age.”

The study needs to be replicated, as it was rather small.  However, the findings are strong enough that, if pregnant, it makes it worth an expectant mother’s time to talk with an OB/GYN or family healthcare provider to see if vaccination is an appropriate precaution to take.