Many mothers are asymptomatic vaginal carriers of a bacteria called Group B Beta Hemolytic Streptococcus-"Group B Strep". Many Obstetricians check for this at about 35-37 weeks of gestation. Occasionally this germ can cause mothers to have bladder or kidney infections during pregnancy. About 1% of colonized mothers transmit this organism to their newborn baby resulting in potentially life-threatening disease in the child: sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis. This may occur as early as the first few hours-days of life (Early onset disease) to as late as one month of age (Late onset disease). Risk factors that increase the chance of such an infection occurring in an infant of a colonized mother include: prematurity (18 hours), maternal fever during labor (>100.6’ F), fetal distress and evidence of infection of the amniotic sac or lining of the uterus.
If the mother is known to be colonized prior to delivery, it is now common practice to give her two or more doses of IV antibiotics during her labor. To be effective, the two doses of antibiotics each have to be given at least four hours prior to delivery( 8 hours total). While this therapy is not 100% effective, it greatly reduces the chances of early onset disease. If the mother’s labor is too short to meet the Eight-hour deadline and/or if one or more of the above risk factors are present, individualized treatment plans need to be made for the baby. These may include cultures, blood tests, Chest x-ray, extended observation in the hospital and antibiotic treatment. We will discuss these issues in detail with you, if they are applicable.
It is important to emphasize that Group B Streptococcal infection can occur as late as a month of age and therefore, you must be alert for the signs and symptoms described in other sections of this booklet after you go home from the hospital.