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Group B Strep
July has been designated as International Group B Strep Awareness Month on the US National Health Observance Calendar and is observed in many countries around the world.
Group B strep (GBS) is a type of bacteria that is naturally found in the digestive and reproductive tracts of both men and women. Approximately 1 in 4 pregnant women carry GBS, the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) GBS can also infect babies during pregnancy and the first few months of life.
Not all babies exposed to GBS become infected, but, for those who do, the results can be devastating. GBS can cause babies to be miscarried, stillborn, born prematurely, become very sick, have lifelong handicaps, or die. Even babies born to moms who test negative can become infected by group B strep. The symptoms of GBS during pregnancy include:
- Decreased or no fetal movement after your 20th week (Note: While the type of fetal movements may change in the third trimester, there is no evidence to support that the number of fetal movements decrease because “there is less room for your baby to move.” *)
- You have any unexplained fever
The symptoms of GBS after pregnancy include:
- High-pitched cry, shrill moaning, whimpering
- Marked irritability, inconsolable crying
- Constant grunting as if constipated
- Projectile vomiting
- Feeds poorly or refuses to eat, not waking for feedings
- Sleeping too much, difficulty being aroused
- High or low or unstable temperature; hands and feet may still feel cold even with a fever
- Blotchy, red, or tender skin
- Blue, gray, or pale skin due to lack of oxygen
- Fast, slow, or difficult breathing
- Body stiffening, uncontrollable jerking
- Listless, floppy, or not moving an arm or leg
- Tense or bulgy spot on top of head
- Blank stare
- Infection at base of umbilical cord or in puncture on head from internal fetal monitor
Contact your care provider immediately if you or your infant experience any of those symptoms stated above.
Treatment for GBS during pregnancy include:
- Testing all pregnant women for group B strep bacteria late in pregnancy (ideally between 35 and 37 weeks pregnant)
- Giving antibiotics during labor to women who test positive for group B strep bacteria
Treatment for GBS after pregnancy:
- It’s important to try and prevent a newborn from getting GBS. But if a baby does get infected with early-onset GBS or late-onset GBS, he is treated with antibiotics through an IV.
There is no vaccine for GBS; however, researchers are making and testing vaccines to prevent GBS infection in mothers and their babies.