Group B Strep

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Group B Strep in babies

Group B strep is also known as GBS and is a type of bacteria called ‘streptococcal’ bacteria. It is one of the many bacteria that normally live in our bodies, and which usually cause no harm.

If you had GBS during pregnancy, there’s a small risk it could spread to your baby and make them very unwell, but with early treatment most babies will make a full recovery.

Most GBS infections happen in the first week after birth. This is called early-onset GBS

What are the signs of GBS infection?

Being very sleepy, floppy or unresponsive

Grunting when breathing, or working hard to breathe when you look at their chest or stomach

Very fast or slow breathing

An unusually high or low temperature

Changes in their skin colour or blotchy

Not feeding well or vomiting milk up

An unusually fast or slow heart rate

Changes in their skin colour (including blotchy skin)

Call 999 or go to A&E urgently if your baby gets any of these symptoms. They may need treatment with antibiotics in hospital immediately.

Could my baby develop GBS infection after their first week of life?

Around a third of GBS infections are late-onset, which means they happen between six days to three months after birth. Having antibiotics during labour does not prevent late-onset GBS infection and there are currently no known ways of preventing it.
6 days - 3 months after birth

What are the signs of late-onset GBS infection?

As well as the symptoms above, you may see the following signs:

  • Being irritable with high-pitched or whimpering cry or moaning
  • A tense or bulging fontanelle (the soft spot-on babies’ heads)
  • Turning away from bright lights
  • A blank, staring or trance-like expression
  •  A stiff body or jerking movements.

Call 999 or go to A&E urgently if your baby gets any of these symptoms. They may need treatment with antibiotics in hospital immediately.

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Is my baby at high risk of GBS infection?

The risk of your baby becoming unwell with GBS infection is increased if your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, if you have a temperature while you are in labour, or if your waters break before you go into labour.

What treatment will my baby have for GBS?

If a GBS infection is suspected, your baby will be offered a blood test or a lumbar puncture, which is a sample of fluid taken from around your baby’s spinal cord.

You will be asked for your consent (permission) before these tests are done.

Antibiotics given into a vein are used to treat the infection.

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What are the risks of group B strep to my baby?

Most babies with a group B strep infection make a full recovery if treated. Around one in every 1,750 newborn babies in the UK and Ireland become unwell in the first week after birth, usually within 12-24 hours of birth. Some babies may develop serious problems like sepsis or meningitis.

Sadly, one in 19 (5.2%) babies who develop an early-onset GBS infection will die. One in 14 (7.4%) babies who recover from early-onset GBS infection will have a long-term disability.

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