MEDICAL MALPRACTICE AND PERSONAL INJURY LAW BLOG

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Group B Streptococcus

Group B streptococcus is a bacteria that commonly exists on and in the body. However, Group B strep can become a problem when it is transmitted to a fetus or baby during pregnancy or childbirth. If the infection is not treated or the baby is not properly monitored, a birth infection can lead to sepsis, pneumonia, or meningitis. 

What is a Group B Streptococcus Infection in Childbirth?

Group B streptococcus is not uncommon and it occurs naturally in a lot of people at any given time. This bacteria can live in the gastrointestinal or genital tracts. However, bacteria like streptococcus can be harmful to those with weak or compromised immune systems, like infants, the elderly, and those with autoimmune diseases. 

When Group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria takes hold and the individual is not easily able to fight off the infection, it can lead to more serious conditions, like:

  • Bacteremia (infection in the bloodstream)
  • Sepsis
  • Bone infection
  • Joint infection
  • Meningitis (infection in the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord)
  • Pneumonia
  • Skin infection
  • Septic shock

What Causes Group B Streptococcus?

Group B strep occurs naturally. GBS becomes a problem in childbirth when the bacteria is passed onto the baby during delivery through the vaginal canal. If GBS is present in the mother’s genital tract or gastrointestinal tract during childbirth, the child may be exposed to the bacteria from the vagina or rectum. 

Even though Group B strep is naturally occurring in many mothers, it is rarely passed on to the fetus. Only about 1% to 2% of babies develop a GBS infection when the mother does not receive antibiotic treatment. When the mother receives antibiotic treatment during labor, the chances of the baby developing a GBS infection are much lower. 

How Did I Get Group B Strep?

Some mothers with GBS blame themselves for contracting the bacteria but it is commonly occurring in many people. About 25% of healthy adult women have GBS in their bodies. It is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and it is not spread through food or water. It is not a sign of bad health or poor hygiene. GBS may be present in the mother’s body before, during, or after childbirth. It is also different from Group A streptococcus, which can cause strep throat. 

Some people are at increased risk of developing GBS disease or passing it on to their newborns. This includes mothers who test positive for GBS bacteria late in pregnancy, develop a fever during labor, or have delayed delivery after their water breaks. A prior pregnancy with GBS is also a higher risk for later GBS infection. 

Preterm delivery can also put the baby at a higher risk of developing an infection. Some medical conditions can also increase the risk of GBS disease, including: 

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • Cancer
  • Obesity

Signs and Symptoms of Group B Streptococcus Infection

The concerning part about GBS is that it can occur shortly after delivery or develop weeks later. This is known as early-onset GBS disease or late-onset GBS disease. 

Early-onset Group B streptococcus usually occurs within the first week after birth, generally within the first 48 hours. The signs and symptoms of early-onset GBS may include: 

  • Fever
  • Feeding problems
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cyanosis or bluish color of the skin 

With late-onset GBS, the babies may show no signs or symptoms of any problems immediately after birth. The signs and symptoms of GBS may only appear after the child develops a more serious infection, like bacteremia or pneumonia. Depending on the type of infection and where the GBS infection takes hold, signs or symptoms of late-onset GBS may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen tissue or joints
  • Drainage or pus from skin infections
  • Joint stiffness

The mother who carried the Group B streptococcus bacteria will likely show no signs of carrying the bacteria unless the mother also develops an infection. 

Diagnosis and Treatment Options for Group B Streptococcus Infection 

The mother can be tested for GBS with a simple swab culture test from the vagina and rectum. This is generally part of routine prenatal care and the culture is taken in the 3rd trimester, at around 36 weeks of pregnancy. If the culture comes back positive for GBS, the mother will generally receive antibiotic treatment when the mother goes into labor. 

For babies with late-onset GBS, the infection may not have occurred during delivery and could be passed on to the baby during breastfeeding or from exposure in the environment, hospital, or from another person. Testing a baby for GBS may be done when the child has a fever, to test the blood for bacterial cultures, including Group B streptococcus. Treatment for a child who develops GBS includes antibiotics.

Will My Child Be Okay After a Group B Streptococcus Infection?

In a mother with GBS, there is already a low risk of infection. With proper care, testing, treatment, and antibiotics administered during labor, a baby developing GBS is relatively rare. Testing and antibiotics are among the most effective ways to reduce the risk of GBS in babies. However, if the mother or baby is not properly monitored or treated, GBS can cause serious injury. 

Complications of GBS can include deafness, mental impairment, developmental delays, seizures, and lung disease. For some infants, Group B streptococcus can be fatal. 

Cerebral palsy can be caused if the child develops bacterial meningitis from GBS. Cerebral palsy is “a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.” Spastic is the most common type of cerebral palsy, and can be characterized by increased muscle tone, muscle stiffness, and uncontrolled movements. 

Was My Doctor Responsible for the Group B Streptococcus Infection Injury?

Doctors are held to a certain standard of care. If a doctor fails to provide the minimum standard of care which causes an injury or is fatal to the mother or baby, the doctor may be responsible for any injuries. If a doctor fails to properly test, monitor, or inform the mother about the risks of GBS, it may be considered medical negligence.  

Infection Birth Injury Lawyers

If your child suffered an infection during childbirth and you are concerned that the doctors and nurses did not do enough to address your concerns, the damage may have been caused by medical negligence. Contact your birth injury medical malpractice attorney to understand your rights. 

At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to investigate birth injuries to determine if the injury was caused by malpractice Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to birth injuries. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.

Group B Streptococcus

Group B Streptococcus, also known as GBS or Group B strep, is a type of common bacteria that could cause an infection. It could be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby, as the bacteria are typically in the rectum, vagina, and intestines. Around 1 in 4 pregnant women have GBS bacteria in their bodies. Every year in the United States, around 930 babies get early onset-GBS disease, and around 1,050 babies get late-onset GBS disease.

When a pregnant woman reaches 36 or 37 weeks, a doctor needs to test her for GBS, as she may not even know she has it. The doctor will do a vaginal swab or culture. If a mother tests positive for the bacteria when she is pregnant, then a newborn is likelier to get GBS disease. Sadly, 4% to 6% of babies who develop GBS pass away from it.

While GBS can affect some people, it may live in other people’s bodies without showing any signs of infection. Pregnant women are not able to take antibiotics in order to prevent GBS in their babies prior to labor because the bacteria could just grow back. But when GBS is left untreated, then a baby could end up suffering from serious health problems.

Symptoms of Group B Streptococcus

Group B Streptococcus is difficult because a pregnant mother might not even know she has it. That’s why it’s so important for women to get tested during their third trimester.

However, if a woman does have GBS during labor, then there is only a small chance, 2%, that her baby will contract it. A baby may get it in the uterus when the mother’s water breaks or when they are traveling through the birth canal.

If the following factors are at play, then the chance of the baby contracting it will be higher:

  • The mother had a urinary tract infection caused by GBS
  • The mother had another baby with GBS
  • The mother has a fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit while she’s delivering the baby
  • The mother’s water breaks 12+ hours before she delivers her baby
  • The baby is born before a mother reaches 37 weeks

Then, once the baby is born, doctors may be able to tell that the baby has GPS if the baby is experiencing the following:

  • They’re limp
  • There is a lack of movement
  • They have trouble breathing as well as feeding
  • Their skin has a blue tinge to it
  • They have a fever
  • They have irregular heart rhythms

If GBS is not properly treated, then a baby could potentially develop health conditions like:

  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brain damage
  • Organ failure
  • Sepsis
  • Seizures
  • Developmental and learning delays
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Sensory issues with vision and hearing

A doctor will need to diagnose the baby with GBS and associated illnesses so that the baby can begin treatment.

Treatment for Group B Streptococcus

If a mother has GBS, then during labor, she will be given antibiotics. If a baby is born before a mother can take antibiotics, then the baby may be given IV antibiotics after delivery. The baby might have to go to the NICU in order to be treated.

If the baby develops a health issue because of GBS, then treatment will vary. If they have seizures, they might have to take anticonvulsants, and if they get bacterial meningitis, they might need IV antibiotics. If they have sepsis, they may need to take heart and/or blood pressure medications, a ventilator to assist them with breathing, and IV fluids. If they have developmental and learning delays, then therapy could prove to be helpful.

How Do I Know if Medical Malpractice Caused Group B Streptococcus?

You cannot be certain that medical malpractice caused Group B Streptococcus until you contact an experienced birth injury lawyer and find out their professional opinion. They will look over the evidence you provide including witness statements, medical records, and photographs of injuries and see if you have a case.

Sometimes doctors make errors that would not qualify as medical malpractice. The legal system makes proving medical malpractice very difficult because if it were easy, people would sue their doctors and bankrupt them. Nobody would want to become a doctor. That’s why you need solid proof that medical malpractice actually occurred. Otherwise, your case could get thrown out immediately.

How Much Will I Receive From a Group B Streptococcus Settlement?

If your birth injury lawyer believes that medical malpractice did occur when your baby contracted GBS, then you may be able to receive compensation for damages such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Loss of companionship and enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Future medical care
  • Loss of earning capacity

While medical bills, future medical care, and loss of earning capacity are economic damages, pain and suffering and loss of companionship and enjoyment of life are non-economic damages. The latter can be harder to calculate, but your lawyer will be able to determine how much compensation you should seek.

Your settlement amount is going to depend on the issues at play. For instance, if your baby received antibiotics and made a full recovery from GBS, then your settlement may be lower. If they developed long-term health issues, though, then your settlement could be higher in order to cover lifelong medical care.

Settlement Offers in a Group B Streptococcus Case

When you reach out to a birth injury lawyer, they will collect the evidence you provide them and help you gather more if you need it. Then, they will contact the doctor you believe was negligent and attempt to reach a settlement with them. If you believe the settlement isn’t high enough, your lawyer will be happy to renegotiate for you. If the doctor does not want to settle, you can always take them to court. Oftentimes, a defendant (a doctor) will settle before court so they don’t harm their reputation. And, in court, they could end up paying you a lot more in settlement money than if they had just settled with you beforehand. Your lawyer will work hard to get you the highest compensation possible.

Why Reach Out to a Birth Injury Lawyer?

In a time when you feel like you’ve been wronged, a birth injury lawyer will be in your corner. They will fight for you every step of the way so you can put all your energy into caring for yourself and your baby at this time.

Group B Streptococcus Birth Injury Attorneys
If your baby developed an illness because of GBS, then you may be entitled to compensation. You won’t know until you get in contact with a birth injury lawyer. When you’re ready, you can reach out to Gilman & Bedigian for help.

Contact Gilman & Bedigian 24/7 for a free consultation at (800) 529-6162.

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