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Group B Strep Awareness

The most common cause of a life-threatening infection in newborns is preventable, but many pregnant women have never heard of it.

Group B streptococcus is a leading cause of infection in infants, which if left unchecked can lead to long-term disabilities and death.  The GBS organism is carried in the female genital track and is passed on to babies during delivery says Dr. Beau Batton, associate professor of pediatrics, at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  Many women who carry the organism do not have symptoms so screening is very important.

“At approximately 35 to 36 weeks gestation all women should undergo screening for Group B Strep, because in women, who are Group B Strep positive, they should be administered antibiotics around the time of delivery in order to prevent infection in the baby.”

Dr. Batton says the antibiotics given to the mother during labor can greatly reduce the chances of the baby having group B strep.  If the baby does get the disease, it usually develops in the first 24 hours after birth, but it can develop after going home from the hospital.  He explains the symptoms.

“Signs and symptoms of Group B infection include difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, periods in which they stop breathing, known as apnea, and temperature instability, where they can both be they can be both too cold or too hot unexpectedly.”

Dr. Batton advises all pregnant women to get good routine prenatal care.  And they should ask their physician about Group B Strep screening prior to the birth of their baby, so the baby can be protected from getting this infection. 

Ruth Slottag