Having a child is one of the most rewarding, terrifying, and eye-opening things that can happen to a couple. Along with making sure that the baby has all the toys, clothes, and food that they need to thrive and grow, every parent also worries about the health of their baby. There’s colic and jaundice and other common infancy illnesses that can make a parent suffer from a bout of nerves. However, there are other illnesses that can cause severe and lasting damage to a newborn. One of these is Group B Strep.
Group B Strep, also known as GBS, is a bacteria that can live in the intestines of both men and women. In a healthy adult, GBS often causes no major health problems. Most commonly, GBS may cause the symptoms of vaginal yeast infections and bladder infections in women. However, in pregnant women, GBS can lead to complications both before and after delivery. According to Group B Strep International, a GBS infection can lead to miscarriage, preterm labor, pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis in newborns. Unfortunately, most women do not know they are colonized with GBS until it is found in a prenatal care panel or the symptoms begin to show in their newborn.
Most prenatal care providers in the United States now include GBS screening as part of the prenatal care panel in every pregnancy. Additionally, many providers will do screenings throughout the pregnancy, particularly prior to delivery in order to anticipate any chances of infection of the newborn. Chances of infection can be greatly decreased by administration of IV antibiotics at least 4 hours before delivery.
Illnesses such as Group B Strep are dangerous to newborns because babies do not have a highly developed immune system. This means that exposure to pathogens—bacteria and viruses—that would cause little harm to an adult can cause major damage to a baby because their bodies cannot fight off the infection. Luckily, there are several ways to protect your baby from GBS related infections. Group B Strep International suggests that every woman:
- Asks to be tested for GBS colonization during pregnancy and to keep those results with them at all times, particularly when closer to the delivery date.
- Visits their care provider for any symptoms such as bladder or yeast infections and anything more than a low grade fever
- Follows regularly prescribed medications, such as antibiotics, from their care provider if they are positive for or suspected of GBS. (There is no scientific evidence that alternative medicines or care plans have a positive impact on reducing GBS infections.)
- Immediately go to the hospital upon the onset of labor, particularly if a positive GBS culture was found in the prenatal care panel. Nurses should be notified of GBS status to start IV antibiotics (this is where those test results come in handy).
- Reminds all care professionals of their GBS status to reduce any actions that could increase the chances of exposing the baby.
- Requires anyone who handles the baby to wash their hands thoroughly before and after care.
- Ensure that every caretaker of their baby knows the symptoms of GBS-related infections.
More information regarding the symptoms of GBS-related infections can be found at the Group B Strep International website, www.groupbstrepinternational.org