Group B Strep is a bacteria that can be transmitted from mother to infant during vaginal delivery. Up to 85 percent of all cases of Group B Strep in infants can be prevented by appropriate testing and treatment of the mother during labor and delivery. Yet, every year a number of infants will become infected with Group B Strep because of a doctor’s failure to screen and treat the mother for Group B Strep. A percentage of these infants will suffer permanent damage that can include cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, mental retardation, learning disabilities and seizures. And approximately 5 percent of infants affected by the infection will die. The failure to screen and treat pregnant women for Group B Strep may result in a medical malpractice claim.
Women should be screened for Group B Strep at 35 to 37 weeks into the pregnancy.
Approximately 25 percent of women carry the Group B Strep bacteria. For most of these women, the Group B Strep bacteria does not cause active infection, and is not contagious. To detect the presence of Group B Strep in the mother, all women should be tested at 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy, even if they are not at high risk and have no symptoms. This screening is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Women who test positive for Group B Strep should be treated during vaginal delivery.
If the presence of Group B Strep is identified, the mother can be treated with oral antibiotics right away. Intravenous antibiotics are then administered as soon as labor starts or the mother’s water breaks, whichever comes first. Ideally, the intravenous antibiotics will be administered at least four hours before childbirth. The use of intravenous antibiotics greatly reduces the chances that the infant will suffer from Group B Strep.
Women at high risk for Group B Strep should also be treated during vaginal delivery.
In situations where the mother goes into labor without prior testing or knowing whether she is carrying the Group B Strep bacteria, antibiotics should be administered during labor if the mother is at high risk. High risk cases arise when:
- The mother goes into labor prematurely (before 37 weeks).
- The mother’s water breaks prematurely or there’s a long delay (12 hours or more) between her water breaking and the delivery.
- The mother develops a fever during labor (100.4 degrees F or higher).
Women who have a history of Group B Strep in previous births or had a urinary tract infection caused by Group B Strep in the current pregnancy should also automatically receive antibiotics during labor.
Without screening and treatment the Group B Strep bacteria may be transmitted from the mother to her baby.
The Group B Strep bacteria can be transmitted from mother to child in any of several different ways during labor and delivery. For example, the bacteria can be transmitted as the infant passes through the birth canal. If a mother with Strep B Strep is given antibiotics during labor, the chances of her transmitting it to her newborn are greatly reduced. Once the infant is exposed, however, the Group B Strep bacteria can spread into the infant’s bloodstream, leading to sepsis (an infection that spreads throughout the body), pneumonia, strokes, meningitis or, even death. Most babies develop a Group B Strep infection within 7 days of birth. The few who develop it later usually do so within the first 3 months of age. The infection can result in permanent injuries to the baby, including blindness, hearing loss, mental retardation, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, and seizures. Approximately 5 percent of infants who develop a Group B Strep infection do not survive.
Failure to screen and treat pregnant women for Group B Strep may constitute medical malpractice
Up to 85 percent of all cases of Group B Strep in infants can be prevented by appropriate testing and treatment of the mother during labor and delivery. Unfortunately, all too often doctors fail to recommend routine screening for the Group B Strep bacteria to pregnant female patients or fail to provide antibiotic treatment for women who are either at high risk or are positive for Group B Strep. This can constitute a departure from acceptable medical practice commonly referred to as the “standard of care.” The result can be tragic – a baby who suffers from a Group B Strep infection that causes death or permanent severe injuries. Such a departure from the standard of care by a doctor that leads to the death or permanent injury of a baby may result in a medical malpractice claim.
Contact a Lawyer Today
If your baby passed away or suffered a permanent injury as a result of Group B Strep and you feel that a doctor or other health care provider failed to recommend screening during pregnancy or failed to provide appropriate antibiotic treatment for Group B Strep during the labor and delivery, you should contact a lawyer. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal (or medical) advice. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information in this article without seeking professional legal counsel. A competent lawyer with experience in medical malpractice can assist you in determining whether you may have a claim for the failure on the part of the doctor to offer Group B Strep screening and treatment. There is a time limit in cases like these so do not wait to call.