Group B Streptococcus (GBS), also known as Group B Strep, is a serious bacterial infection that pregnant women can transmit to their babies during childbirth. While some adults have GBS with limited medical effects, Group B Strep bacteria is particularly harmful to infants. With this in mind, doctors often administer advanced prenatal screening tests for Group B strep to prevent a mother who is carrying the infection from passing it to her baby during labor and delivery. Tragically, healthcare providers may fail to test, diagnose, or treat GBS in pregnant mothers, leading to catastrophic birth injuries and other serious conditions for newborns. If a medical professional or facility erred in the testing, diagnostic, or treatment process for Group B Streptococcus and your child was injured, you may have grounds for a malpractice claim. Call 866-708-8617 to discuss your unique case with an attorney who can help, or contact a knowledgeable legal professional online for a free case evaluation. A member of our team is available 24/7 to assist you.
What is Group B Strep (GBS)?
Group B Streptococcus (GBS or Group B Strep) is a relatively common bacteria often found in the genital region or gastrointestinal tract. GBS may exist in adults, particularly older adults and those who suffer from other medical conditions. In many cases, people with GBS experience few to no symptoms from having the bacteria. Still, in other cases, Group B Strep will develop into other serious infections. GBS can cause catastrophic injuries and other severe conditions in infants.
Pregnant women may carry GBS bacteria in the vagina, gastrointestinal tract, or rectum. When a mother has Group B Strep, an infant can may acquire it during birth. To prevent transmission of the bacteria, doctors should run prenatal screening tests for GBS and administer antibiotics to the mother once labor begins. In certain cases, failure to test for, diagnose, or prevent Group B Strep may constitute medical malpractice.
How do Infants Become Infected with Group B Strep?
There are two primary ways that babies become infected with Group B Strep during labor and delivery. First, infants may be exposed to GBS in the mother’s uterus when the water breaks. In addition, a baby may acquire GBS while traveling through the birth canal, when the bacteria can be readily swallowed inhaled through the mouth or nose.
The majority of newborns develop Group B Strep during birth or within the first week after birth, known as early-onset GBS. Notably, there are certain factors that place newborns at a higher risk for exposure to GBS during birth, including if the mother tests positive for Group B Strep in the later stages of pregnancy, the baby is delivered 18 or more hours after the mother’s water breaks, or the mother delivered a child with GBS previously.
What are the Symptoms of GBS Infection in Babies?
Doctors and other medical professionals must remain acutely aware of the symptoms of GBS in infants in order to diagnose and treat the infection as soon as possible. Some of the signs of Group B Strep in newborns include:
- Problems feeding
- Trouble breathing
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Lethargy (lack of movement, feeling limp)
- Skin with a somewhat blue tinge
Are there Ways to Prevent Newborn Group B Streptococcus?
There are effective ways to prevent mothers from transmitting GBS bacteria to infants during birth. The primary methods are testing pregnant women for Group B Strep, and providing antibiotics to those at a higher risk of passing it on during the labor and delivery process. Testing for Group B Streptococcus is recommended for pregnant women between 36 and 37 weeks of gestation. With this test, which uses a non-invasive swabbing method, doctors will generally have the lab analyze samples from the rectum and the vagina. Beyond screening for GBS during pregnancy, healthcare providers are advised to administer antibiotics at the outset of labor to mothers with risk factors for having a newborn with Group B Strep. If a doctor fails to prevent passage of the infection before the baby is born, the victim may have a lawsuit for medical negligence.
What Happens if a Newborn has GBS Infection?
Group B Streptococcus can cause death in newborns. In fact, estimates suggest that between 4% and 6% of infants with GBS ultimately die. When babies do survive Group B Strep infection, some of the other potential results can be extremely harmful. For instance, infants who develop GBS may suffer from brain damage, cognitive impairments, learning and developmental delays, sensory problems with hearing or vision, seizures, and cerebral palsy.
Doctor Failure to Test, Diagnose, or Treat Group B Strep in NJ?
If your doctor failed to provide prenatal screening for Group B Streptococcus, failed to diagnose GBS, or failed to treat Group B strep and your child suffered harm or death, it is highly advisable to speak with an attorney about the legal options that may be available to you. GBS malpractice is far too common and babies often experience preventable injuries as a result. When these devastating situations arise, victims have the right to pursue justice and compensation. If your baby has been diagnosed with Group B Strep infection, you and your family may have grounds to pursue a lawsuit against the physician, hospital, or other healthcare providers who may have been involved. Contact our experienced attorneys in New Jersey at 866-708-8617 to learn more. We are happy to provide you with answers and a free consultation.