If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you have plenty to think about. One thing many women don’t realize is the risk of Group B Streptococcus. About 25 percent of women carry this bacteria, which live in the intestines, vagina, and rectum. Normally, it’s nothing to worry about, and women who carry it most likely don’t know and don’t have symptoms. But in some cases, women can pass this bacteria to their infants during birth. That is why it is important to know the signs of Group B Strep.

Group B Strep is very risky for fetuses and infants, causing:

  • Sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart and blood pressure instability, strokes
  • Gastrointestinal and kidney problems

Group B Strep (GBS) causes about 150,000 preventable stillbirths and infant deaths every year. Babies who survive the infection may develop permanent problems including hearing or vision loss, or cerebral palsy.

Do I have Group B Strep? 

In the U.S. your OB/GYN will test for Group B strep late in your pregnancy, around the 35th to 37th week. If your doctor hasn’t mentioned this test, ask about it.

Researchers are working on several vaccines, but none are yet ready. Women who give birth at home, or those who don’t see an OB/GYN regularly are at higher risk for not knowing and then passing on the Group B Strep bacteria.

About 1 out of every 200 babies who are born to mothers who carry GBS will become ill.

What to Do Next

If you know you have Group B Strep or if you did not get tested, you should watch for these signs during pregnancy:

  • An unexplained fever
  • A sudden decrease in fetal movement after the 20th week

During labor, be sure your doctors and health care team all know you tested positive for GBS. It is likely you will be given antibiotics during delivery to protect your baby as he or she is born.

Signs of Group B Strep After Birth

Babies who become ill often do so suddenly, changing with a few hours. Get to a hospital if your baby shows any of these signs:

  • High-pitched cry, shrill moaning, whimpering​
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Constant grunting or moaning as if constipated or in distress (Listen to these sounds.)
  • Fast, slow, or difficult breathing
  • Blue, gray, or pale skin due to lack of oxygen​
  • Blotchy or red skin​
  • Tense or bulgy spot on top of the head (fontanel)  (Note: A sunken fontanel can be a sign of dehydration, possibly from not eating.)
  • Infection (pus and/or red skin) at base of the umbilical cord or in puncture on the head from an internal fetal monitor
  • Feeds poorly or refuses to eat, not waking for feedings
  • Sleeping too much, difficulty being aroused​ ​
  • Marked irritability
  • Projectile vomiting
  • Reacting as if the skin is tender when touched​​
  • Listless, floppy,
  • Not moving an arm or leg​
  • Blank stare
  • Body stiffening, uncontrollable jerking
  • Fever or low or unstable temperature; hands and feet may still feel cold even with a fever​​​ ​

If you have questions about Group B Strep or any other aspect of pregnancy, contact your team here at Generations Family Practice.