Streptococcus Infection in Babies

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Published on February 24, 2020

Prevent Streptococcus Infection in Babies

Photo of sleeping babyPhoto of sleeping babyGroup B streptococcus (strep) is a type of bacteria. It can be found in the digestive tract, urinary tract, and genital area of adults. GBS infection usually does not cause problems in healthy women before pregnancy. But it can cause serious illness for a newborn baby. It may cause sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis, or seizures.

About 1 in 4 pregnant women have GBS in their rectum or vagina. During pregnancy, the mother can pass GBS to the baby. A baby can get it from the mother's genital tract during birth.

Which babies are at risk for group B strep?

Newborns are more likely to get group B strep infection if the mother has:

  • Preterm labor
  • Early breaking of water (rupture of membranes)
  • A long time between rupture of membranes and birth
  • Internal fetal monitoring during labor
  • Fever
  • A past pregnancy with a baby who had group B strep
  • African-American or Hispanic ethnicity
  • Group B strep in urine (bacteruria) with this pregnancy

Newborn babies with group B strep usually have signs in the first 24 hours after birth. These signs may include:

  • Being fussy, very sleepy, and having breathing problems (signs of sepsis)
  • Breathing fast and making grunting noises (signs of pneumonia)
  • Having breathing problems and periods of not breathing (signs of meningitis)
  • Having a change in blood pressure
  • Having convulsions (seizure)
  • Babies who get group B strep a week or so after birth may have signs such as:
  • Decreased movement of an arm or leg
  • Pain with movement of an arm or leg
  • Breathing problems
  • Fever
  • Red area on the face or other part of the body

Most newborns with group B strep infection have signs in the first few hours after birth. Your baby's healthcare provider will test your baby’s body fluids, such as blood or spinal fluid.

What can I do to Prevent Group B strep in my child?

Leslie Gonzalez MD, an OB/GYN at PIH Health recommends, “All pregnant women should be tested for group B strep as a part of routine prenatal care. Tests are usually done between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. The results may take a few days”.

If you test positive for GBS during pregnancy, you will get intravenous (IV) antibiotics during labor. This lowers the risk that your baby will get the infection. Penicillin is the most common antibiotic given. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any medicine allergies.

If you have not been diagnosed with GBS, you may be given antibiotics before labor and birth if you have certain risk factors. These include:

  • GBS infection in a previous baby
  • Labor or waters breaking (rupture of membranes) before 37 weeks (preterm)
  • Rupture of membranes18 hours or longer before delivery of a full-term pregnancy
  • Fever during labor
  • Some babies still get GBS even with testing and treatment. Research is ongoing to make vaccines to prevent GBS infection.

If you are looking for an OB/GYN, Dr. Gonzalez practices at the PIH Health Brookshire Medical Office Building in Downey, Ca. View her video on her physician profile or call 562.904.5151. You may also visit to learn about our Women’s Health program.

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The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.