Group B strep (GBS), a type of bacteria, is the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns and one of the leading infectious causes of newborn illness and death worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Fortunately, most GBS infections that develop at birth can be prevented if women who have tested positive receive at least 4 hours of IV antibiotics just prior to delivery. This is why testing is so important! In an effort to raise awareness of the importance of testing in pregnancy, this month is International Group B Strep Awareness Month.
When is my baby at risk of Group B strep?
There are three distinct times when Group B strep can infect babies:
1) during pregnancy (now known as prenatal-onset GBS disease). Knowledge-based prevention strategies are:
a) urine culturing for GBS (different than the standard prenatal urine “dipstick” check),
b) see your provider promptly for any symptoms of bladder or vaginitis symptoms, and
c) avoid any unnecessary cervical exams and other invasive procedures such as membrane stripping which may push GBS closer to your baby. (GBS can cross intact membranes.)
2) at birth through the first week of life (known as early-onset GBS disease). Recommendations in many countries are now to test all pregnant women for GBS and, if positive, treat them with IV antibiotics during labor and delivery.
3) after the first week of life through several months of age (known as late-onset GBS disease). These type of infections can be from sources other than the mother. Handwashing before handling a baby is good common sense to prevent many types of infection. GBS is a fast-acting bacteria so parents should make sure that everyone who takes care of their baby knows the symptoms of GBS infection in babies and how to respond (www.gbs-intl.org/recognize-the-symptoms-of-infection/).
How can I help to spread awareness?
Parents and providers around the world are promoting GBS awareness and prevention through website banners, tweeting #InternationalGBSAwareness, and sharing their GBS experiences through social media and the news.
Downloadable GBS materials are available here.
Please visit www.groupbstrepinternational.org for more information on how to protect your baby from Group B Strep, how to promote awareness and prevention in your community, and create or join fundraising efforts to increase GBS awareness and prevention worldwide.
You can find out more information about Group B Strep, tests and treatments in the UK here.