How Can Group B Strep Affect Your Baby?

How Can Group B Strep Affect Your Baby?

<blockquote> <h3>Fast Facts:</h3> <ul> <li>It’s estimated that about 1 in 4 pregnant women in the United States carry group B <em>Streptococcus </em>(GBS) – bacteria that live in the intestine, vagina, urinary tract, and rectum – but since it usually shows no symptoms, most moms-to-be don’t know they have it.</li> <li>GBS is the leading cause of dangerous infections in newborns, including pneumonia, systemic infection, meningitis (brain and spinal cord infection), and sepsis (blood infection).</li> <li>About 1 in 200 babies develop a GBS infection in the United States. However, when antibiotics are given intravenously during labor, the odds go down to only about 1 in 4,000.</li> </ul> </blockquote> <p><br />Most moms-to-be have never heard of group B strep (GBS), yet about 1 in every 4 (~25%) healthy pregnant women in the United States carry the group B <em>Streptococcus</em> bacteria in their intestine, vagina, and rectum, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).</p> <p>GBS is harmless in most healthy expectant moms, and with no symptoms, most don’t even know they carry it until they test positive for it. So, what’s the fuss with GBS then? Well, GBS can be transmitted to your baby during delivery, and that, in turn, can cause serious complications for the baby.</p> <p>Hearing that you tested positive for GBS during pregnancy can certainly be scary. But knowing exactly what GBS is, how it might affect you and your baby, and most importantly, how to treat it can go a long way to keeping both of you safe.</p> <p>Read on to find out more about GBS, what it means to test positive during pregnancy, and how it might affect your baby.</p> <h2>What is group B strep (GBS)?</h2> <p>Group B <em>Streptococcus</em> (also called group B strep, or GBS) is a common type of bacteria that naturally lives in your body, specifically in your intestines, vagina, rectum, and urinary tract. It’s so common that about 1 in 4 pregnant women carry the bacteria.</p> <p>The good news is that if you’re healthy pre- and during pregnancy with a healthy gut and vaginal microbiome, the “good” bacteria in your gut and vagina will keep GBS in check. In fact, you likely won’t even know that you have it since it has no symptoms.</p> <figure><img src="https://cdn.storymd.com/optimized/4Aw7QbHrAz/thumbnail.jpg" alt /> <figcaption>Group B Streptococcus bacteria. <em>Source: CDC/ Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit / Medical Illustrator: Meredith Newlove</em></figcaption> </figure> <h2>How do you get GBS?</h2> <p>Unlike the flu or COVID-19, GBS isn’t something you can catch by being around someone who has it – it occurs naturally in your body. You can’t get it from food or water either. You can, however, pass it back and forth between sexual partners if you have it, but it’s not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD).</p> <h2>Can I get a GBS infection during pregnancy?</h2> <p>GBS can cause an infection in people at any age, but it’s not very common. If GBS finds its way into your bladder, it can cause a urinary tract infection, which would need to be treated. Thankfully, UTIs can be easily treated with antibiotics during pregnancy without harming your baby.</p> <p>While other complications due to GBS are extremely uncommon, GBS can overgrow and cause serious infections during pregnancy, such as:</p> <ul> <li>an infection in the amniotic fluid (the bag of water surrounding your baby)</li> <li>an infection in the blood</li> <li>an infection that changes in vaginal discharge</li> <li>infection in the uterus</li> <li>in very rare, severe cases, GBS infection can lead to preterm birth and stillbirth</li> </ul> <p>Again, with the exception of a UTI, a GBS infection during pregnancy is very rare and is usually not something that most moms-to-be have to worry about.</p> <h2>How will I know if I have it or not?</h2> <p>GBS occurs naturally in the body. Most women who carry it are oblivious that they even have it since there are no signs or symptoms unless it causes an infection. On top of that, not every pregnant woman will have it, and doctors aren’t sure why some pregnant women carry GBS while other don’t. And oddly, you can carry it during one pregnancy and not in another.</p> <p>Since GBS is the most common cause of infections in newborns, the CDC and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend a GBS screening test for all pregnant women during their third trimester, between 35 and 37 weeks. It’s a simple, quick, and painless test that involves your obstetrician taking a swab of your vagina and rectum during one of your routine prenatal exams. The sample is then sent to a lab to check for the presence of group B <em>Streptococcus</em> bacteria under a microscope.</p> <p>If you test positive for GBS, there’s no need to worry because it can be easily treated by giving you antibiotics intravenously (IV) during labor. Typically, this antibiotic is penicillin unless you have an allergy. This will significantly reduce your baby’s risk of getting early-onset GBS.</p> <p>About 1 in 200 babies develop a GBS infection in the United States. However, when antibiotics are given during labor, the odds go down to only about 1 in 4,000.</p> <figure>  <img src="https://cdn.storymd.com/optimized/8okm8ET4q7/thumbnail.jpg" alt /> <figcaption>GBS risk. <em>Source: www.cdc.gov</em></figcaption> </figure> <h2>What happens if GBS is passed along to newborns?</h2> <p>If you test positive for GBS, and it’s left untreated, it can be passed along to your baby during delivery, which is called early-onset GBS, and it can have potentially serious, long-term effects on your newborn baby. In fact, GBS in babies is one of the most common causes of life-threatening infections in newborns, such as pneumonia, systemic infection, meningitis (infection in the brain and spinal cord), and sepsis (infection in the blood).</p> <p>While a GBS infection in a newborn can be potentially life-threatening, most babies who develop early-onset GBS recover without any serious complications if it’s caught and treated early. Late-onset is the more severe and dangerous GBS.</p> <p>In rare instances, your baby can get late-onset GBS, which is contracted between a week and a few months after birth. Since newborns have underdeveloped immune systems, late-onset GBS is most likely to lead to meningitis, which can lead to cerebral palsy, hearing and vision loss, and sometimes, even death.</p> <p>Oddly, late-onset GBS is not always passed from mom to baby. For reasons that aren’t fully known, only about half of babies with late-onset GBS have moms who have tested positive for the bacterium.</p> <h2>Signs and symptoms of early- and late-onset GBS infection in your baby</h2> <p>There are signs and symptoms of a possible GBS infection in your baby that you can look out for, which include the following:</p> <ul> <li>blotches of red patches on the body</li> <li>cyanosis, which means a blue tint to the skin</li> <li>difficulty waking from sleep</li> <li>high fever</li> <li>changes in blood pressure</li> <li>difficulty breathing, fast breathing, or periods of not breathing</li> <li>lethargy or “limpness”</li> <li>limbs are moving less than normal</li> <li>feeding poorly</li> <li>failure to thrive</li> <li>seizures or convulsions</li> </ul> <figure> <p>  <img src="https://cdn.storymd.com/optimized/JdPYp7Fjq3/thumbnail.jpg" alt /></p> <figcaption>Clinical outcomes of invasive GBS infection. <em>Source: © 2021 Li, Brokaw, Furuta, Coler, Obregon-Perko, Chahroudi, Wang, Permar, Hotchkiss, Golos, Rajagopal and Adams Waldorf.</em></figcaption> </figure> <h2>The takeaway</h2> <p>It can be very scary to find out that you’ve tested positive for GBS and that your baby has a chance of getting sick. But take comfort in knowing that the CDC and ACOG’s GBS prevention guidelines have been in place for about two decades in the United States and have proven effective in protecting babies.</p> <p>So, if you’ve tested positive for GBS, head directly to the hospital when your water breaks because you will need to be given antibiotics intravenously to protect your baby.</p><h2>More on Group B Strep</h2><ul><li><a href="https://soulivity.storymd.com/journal/wd8gv7vi4m-group-b-streptococcal-infection" target="_blank">Group B Strep (GBS) Infection: Symptoms, Treatment, Complications</a></li><li><a href="https://soulivity.storymd.com/journal/6we7zo8h5j-infections-and-pregnancy" target="_blank">The Most Dangerous Infections During Pregnancy and How to Avoid Them</a></li><li><a href="https://soulivity.storymd.com/journal/yj59x7ktnw-pregnancy-complications" target="_blank">How to Prevent and Treat Pregnancy Complications</a></li></ul>
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