Jul 30, 2018
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Group B Streptococcus: A risk to newborns that’s preventable

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A pregnant woman has a variety of tests done throughout her pregnancy. Many are done to ensure that her health is remaining as good as possible while she supports her baby. One test, the Group B Strep, is to prevent issues with the baby after birth.

Group B Streptococcus is a type of bacteria that occurs in the body naturally. It comes and goes, so a pregnant woman should have testing done even if she was negative for the bacteria in a previous pregnancy.

Testing for Group B Strep

Typically, the test is done when she is 35 to 37 weeks pregnant. It involves the doctor taking a swab of the vaginal and rectal areas and sending that to a lab to determine if the bacteria is present. The test can take one to three days to come back. Ideally, this will happen before the woman goes into labor. If she is positive for the bacteria, she will receive intravenous antibiotics during her labor. Penicillin is the most common antibiotic for this bacteria, but other options are available if a woman is allergic to this drug. It is most effective if it is given for at least four hours prior to delivery.

Risk with premature births

A woman who goes into labor prematurely is at risk of having Group B Strep without knowing it. This is because most woman won’t be tested prior to 35 weeks. When labor is imminent but she isn’t tested or the test hasn’t come back, doctors might err on the side of caution and give her antibiotics.

If the membranes rupture, but labor doesn’t start right away, there is a chance that she can have the test done prior to delivery. This is sometimes the case with preterm premature rupture of the membranes. In these cases, there is a chance that doctors will give the woman antibiotics to help stave off a uterine infection that can come with PPROM.

Types of Group B Strep in newborns

There are two types of Group B Strep in newborns. The first is early onset, which occurs in the week following delivery. The second is late onset, which occurs after that first week. Most newborns will show signs of the infection in the first 24 hours after birth. Signs that a baby has it include:

  • Irritability
  • Feeding problems
  • Fever
  • Inability to regulate body temperature
  • Breathing problems
  • Inactivity

Because this can lead to such serious conditions, such as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis, prompt diagnosis and treatment are necessary. If this doesn’t happen, a medical malpractice claim against the physician might be appropriate.



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