Group B Strep Infection In Babies

Watching for signs of Group B Strep infection in your baby can mean the difference between life and death.

When you find out your baby has been infected by Group B Strep (GBS) bacteria, either during your pregnancy or labor and delivery, your world will come toppling down on you. The fact that this infection has great potential for prevention with antibiotics makes it further more difficult to bear.

A baby can develop early-onset or late-onset GBS infection after birth. Early-onset infection occurs either directly after birth and up until your baby is two weeks of age. Late-onset has been known to occur as late as three months after birth. Both are potentially life threatening with the potential for lifelong disabilities.

GBS infection in your baby is more likely to occur if you were unaware you were infected and received no preventative antibiotic treatment during your labor and delivery. In this case, your baby's sudden onset of illness at birth will bring with it a great deal of confusion. If you did not show any signs of infection during labor such as a fever, then it will bring even further confusion.

An early-onset GBS baby will become very sick very quickly and usually within the first twenty-four hours following birth. A fever is one sign of this infection though that can occur with a variety of illnesses. Lethargic behavior in your baby is another. A GBS baby will be more difficult to rouse than a healthy newborn. Early babies are also sleepy but full-term babies generally are not. Your baby would seem unwilling to wake and nurse or fall quickly back to sleep, especially between 12 and 24 hours after birth. A GBS baby developing early onset infection may also show poor skin color. Most newborns have a ruddy appearance and if your baby does not you should be on the alert and contact your care provider if you are truly concerned.

What happens with a GBS infected baby shortly after birth during early-onset disease is that the bacteria spreads throughout the baby's body and causes a systemic infection. These babies usually end up in a neonatal intensive care unit within 24 to 48 hours after birth. They will then receive numerous tests to confirm GBS infection and be given antibiotics and possibly respiratory support depending on how serious the infection is and how early it is caught.

A late-onset infection in a GBS baby is more difficult to treat. The bacteria has had more time to grow in the body and pose a threat for lifelong disabilities. These babies often develop meningitis which affects their brain development and can cause serious complications.

Your baby who develops late-onset infection will go from a healthy newborn to one that appears limp and distant. This baby will be an active feeder and suddenly develop difficulties with what was easy before. Immediate consultation with your baby's physician should be obtained so treatment can begin immediately.

Both early-onset and late-onset GBS infection pose health risks for your baby. The key in both, if you were not treated with antibiotics during labor or delivery, is recognizing the signs of potential problem in your baby and acting quickly for the best outcome possible.

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