Group B Strep Infections at Birth

October 30, 2015

Were You or Your Child Infected With Group B Strep During Pregnancy or Birth?

One of the most serious and deadly infections that a newborn baby can contract during his or her first hours and days is group B strep. This infection, which can quickly lead to sepsis, meningitis, and permanent injury, is sometimes passed from mother to child during the birth process. Here are some important things you should know about this potentially fatal birth infection and your rights if your baby has been affected.

What Is a Group B Strep Infection?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS or “group B strep”) is a bacterium. Infection with GBS is often harmless in healthy adults, but it can be deadly to newborn babies. Frequently found in the intestinal tract, GBS can migrate to the vagina and transfer to a baby during the labor and delivery process.

Although many babies who are born to GBS-positive mothers remain healthy, between 2 and 3 out of 1,000 babies suffer serious and life-threatening infections after contracting the bacteria. These newborns can develop sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis—and many are left with permanent injuries like hearing loss, blindness, cerebral palsy, and developmental issues. In some cases, the infection is fatal.

About 20 percent of women test positive for GBS during a vaginal swab-test in the third trimester of their pregnancy. These women are usually placed on antibiotics either before or during the birth of their child to prevent the infection spreading to their child. If a GBS infection exists but goes undetected in the mother at this time, or if an existing GBS infection is not detected in the baby, the consequences can be extremely serious.

The Signs of a Group B Strep Infection

GBS should be a concern of every doctor, midwife, and OB/Gyn. Group B strep can affect a baby a few hours or days after birth, or it can appear weeks or months into an infant’s life. While all care providers should be on the lookout for a group B strep infection, especially if the mother tested positive for the infection, it is important for all parents and caregivers to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of the condition:

  • Early-onset group B strep disease. The symptoms of early-onset GBS infection usually appear within 12 hours of birth and include fever, lethargy, and difficulty feeding. Your doctor should test your baby for an infection, especially if you tested positive during the third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Late-onset group B strep disease. The signs and symptoms of a GBS infection include cold symptoms, such as coughing and congestion, fever, difficulty feeding, lethargy, and seizures. While the late onset form of this medical condition is often less serious than early-onset GBS, it is still important to treat immediately.

Group B Strep, Birth Injury, and Medical Malpractice

Doctors and medical professionals guard against this disease—which affects about 2 out of 1,000 births—by testing the mother’s birth canal for a group B strep infection during her last weeks of pregnancy. Those with positive test results—about one in five women—usually receive antibiotics during labor that will often prevent the infection from harming the child. Babies with any signs or symptoms of the disease should also be tested for the infection and may be given precautionary antibiotics to stop an infection from progressing.

However, not all group B strep infections are caught and stopped. In fact, group B strep is known for how quickly and insidiously it can infect and harm newborn babies. However, your doctor and hospital should take reasonable steps at a certain standard of care to prevent, diagnose, and treat group B strep in a newborn baby. While some medical professionals and medical centers do their best to keep both mother and baby healthy and unharmed, some children are left with permanent injuries or lose their lives because of carelessness, medical malpractice, and negligence.

Should Your Baby’s Group B Strep Infection Have Been Prevented?

In some cases, infections and serious diseases can’t be prevented. In some cases, a serious infection can’t be successfully treated or cured. But there are other cases in which an infection should have been prevented, should have been diagnosed earlier, or should have been treated differently. In this last set of cases, the doctor or hospital that failed to respond properly to the infection may be responsible for damages.

If your baby suffered an injury or died due to a group B strep infection, you have a right to know exactly why this happened and whether your doctor or hospital should have prevented what happened. You need to investigate the answers to questions like:

  • Were you properly screened for group B strep during your pregnancy?
  • Was your baby properly screened after his or her birth?
  • Was group B strep diagnosed in a timely manner?
  • Was group B strep treated quickly and correctly?

If your child has been harmed by a GBS infection, it is important to understand why the infection was not detected in the mother and whether your baby was treated for the infection in a reasonable manner.

Your doctors should take reasonable steps toward preventing, diagnosing, and treating group B strep in your baby. If your baby has been harmed by a GBS infection, you can speak with an attorney who has experience with these kinds of cases about your experience and its legal implications. In some cases, families affected by preventable birth infection can recover compensation to help support the baby’s recovery and the family’s losses. To request a free case evaluation with our Chicago legal team, you can call the Law Offices of Lane Brown, LLC, today at 312-332-1400.

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