July is International Group B Streptococcus (GBS) Awareness Month. As medical negligence specialists at Kingsley Napley, we have acted for many families who have been affected due to delays in the diagnosis and treatment of a GBS infection.

We are blogging to highlight the importance of the annual Group B Strep Awareness Month campaign which is run by Group B Strep Support (GBBS). They are the world’s leading charity aiming to eradicate GBS infections in babies. Their campaign aims to get as many people as possible involved in raising awareness of the condition and highlights the importance of education and research to save lives.

What is Group B Strep?

GBS is a type of bacteria also known as streptococcal bacteria. These bacteria are very common in both men and women and usually lives in the rectum or vagina. The infection is normally harmless and most people will not realise they have it.

GBS is usually only a problem when it affects pregnant women, young babies, elderly people or those with a pre-existing illness.

Pregnancy and Group B Strep

It is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 pregnant women carry GBS in their digestive system or vagina. If you have GBS while you are pregnant, there is a small risk it could spread to your baby during labour. In very rare cases, GBS infection during pregnancy can also cause miscarriage, premature labour or stillbirth.

If GBS is detected during pregnancy or labour, you should be offered antibiotics during labour to reduce the risk of your baby developing the infection.

Babies and Group B Strep

If a mother has GBS during pregnancy, there is a small risk it can be passed to a baby. If the infection was not identified during pregnancy, it may be detected in your baby.

Symptoms of GBS infection can develop up to three months after birth. This will need to be treated with antibiotics through the vein if symptoms develop. Common symptoms include:

  • Being sleepy or unresponsive
  • Crying inconsolably
  • Appearing unusually floppy
  • Not feeding well
  • Grunting or noisy breathing
  • High/low temperature
  • Fast or slow heart rate or breathing rate

Complications of Group B Strep in Babies

If GBS is not treated with antibiotics as soon as possible, some babies may develop serious complications such as blood poisoning (sepsis) or an infection of the brain lining (meningitis). This can cause long term disabilities including cerebral palsy, brain injury, serious learning difficulties, hearing or visual loss. In some cases, it can be fatal.

Where a baby has suffered significant complications or injuries as a result of developing a GBS infection, some parents choose to seek legal advice and compensation to ensure the right treatment and care is provided throughout the duration of their child’s life.