What Is GBS Bacteria and Could My Unborn Child Be Hurt By It?

What Is GBS Bacteria and Could My Unborn Child Be Hurt By It?

You may not have heard of GBS bacteria, but if you are an expectant parent, understanding the potential impact of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) disease on your unborn child is critical.

GBS bacteria are commonly found in a person’s gastrointestinal and genital tracts. Typically, for an adult, the bacteria are benign and cause no issues or symptoms. But they do pose a real danger to newborns who comprise the largest group of patients diagnosed with GBS-related disease. It might surprise you to know about 25% of pregnant persons are carriers of GBS.

When GBS is passed to the child in the womb or, most commonly, during the birth process, the results can be devastating. GBS bacteria can cause sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, and is the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns. If the pregnant carrier has GBS bacteria and does not get antibiotics at the time of delivery, the baby has a 1 in 200 chance of developing GBS disease, with premature babies carrying an even higher risk. About 75% of infant GBS cases are what is called “early onset,” occurring in the first week of life, with the remaining 25% occurring at one week to several months after birth.

Sadly, studies have shown GBS disease also raises the risk of infant mortality and can carry life-long negative consequences through chronic disorders such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hearing impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and developmental issues.

So, what preventative measures should physicians take to protect newborns? According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant persons should be screened for GBS bacteria in the weeks before delivery (36th or 37th week of pregnancy), regardless of the method of delivery. If they test positive for GBS, administering IV antibiotics during delivery provides the strongest protection for the baby. This simple step reduces the risk of GBS disease from 1 in 200 to 1 in 4,000. In other words, a baby born to a mother with GBS who does not receive antibiotics during delivery is 20 times more likely to contract some form of GBS disease. Because of the potential serious health consequences to the baby, GBS needs to be actively monitored and correctly managed by your physician. Failure to do so may result in your child suffering lifelong complications and even death. If you feel your child has suffered because of a failure to appropriately test and administer antibiotics when indicated, we urge you to consult with a knowledgeable malpractice attorney. Let us help.

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About The Author

Attorney Thomas is a born advocate and represents individuals in personal injury and medical malpractice cases. She combines an extensive background in civil litigation with expert negotiation skills strengthened by her experience working both sides of the courtroom. Consistently recognized as a top lawyer by state and national organizations, Attorney Thomas is admitted to practice law in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well as the state and federal courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.