Group B Streptococcus (GBS or Strep B) is a normal bacterium which is carried by 20-40% of adults, usually without symptoms or side-effects. However, there is a risk that the Strep B bacteria can be passed to babies around birth and cause serious infection.
GBS infection in babies can be very serious and should be treated immediately to prevent long term injuries. If your baby has been injured by a failure to diagnose and treat the infection, it is possible to bring a legal case if you believe that there were mistakes in the medical care.
If a baby develops GBS infection these can be very serious, usually presenting as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. These can lead to long-term disabilities such as cerebral palsy, brain injury, blindness, deafness, serious learning difficulties and even fatality. GBS infection is usually avoidable if medical professionals are aware that the mother is carrying GBS, or if a high temperature or signs of infection during labour occur. If you are found to carry GBS, you do not need antibiotic treatment until labour starts when you should be offered IV antibiotics to reduce the chance of your baby developing a GBS infection. When medical professionals fail to react to the signs and symptoms, this can constitute negligent care.
Despite this significant risk, in the UK there is currently no national routine screening programme to test if a pregnant woman is carrying group B Strep. Group B Strep Support (GBSS) campaigns tirelessly for the NHS to change its protocol and management of GBS. If a pregnant woman would like to be tested, they usually must pay for this privately.
GBSS provides potentially life-saving information regarding GBS. If GBS identified during pregnancy, IV antibiotics should be given to a pregnant woman as soon as possible once labour starts as her baby is considered to be at an increased risk of developing the infection. Most babies who become infected with GBS can be treated successfully and make a full recovery.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists provide information regarding what puts babies at a higher risk of developing GBS:-
- your baby is born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) – the earlier your baby is born, the greater the risk
- you have previously had a baby affected by GBS infection
- you have had a high temperature or other signs of infection during labour
- you have had any positive urine or swab test for GBS in this pregnancy
- your waters have broken more than 24 hours before your baby is born.
The NHS website provides information about what you should do if you are tested positively for GBS:-
- speak to your midwife about your birth plan – they may recommend giving birth in hospital
- contact your midwife as soon as you go into labour or your waters break
- have antibiotics into a vein during labour – this can significantly reduce the risk of your baby getting ill
- stay in hospital for at least 12 hours after giving birth so your baby can be monitored – this isn’t always necessary
Our Clinical Negligence team supports GBSS which is a UK charity working to stop GBS infection in babies and raise vital awareness. They aim to educate new and expectant parents, doctors, and midwives about GBS testing, signs of FBS infection in babies and treatment and provide information and support to affected families suffering from the devastating consequences of the infection. For more information, visit their website: https://gbss.org.uk .