My son was born healthy in Budapest Hungary in Feb. 2001. He was really quite advanced for his age because he was already focusing his eyes on things around a couple days old, and he even noticed when we moved the furniture around in our bedroom.
He was really quiet, ate well, slept well and was just a really good baby. When he was three weeks old, we woke up because he hadn't woken up for a feeding, and when I picked him up out of his crib, I noticed his cry had changed, and his body was limp. His eyes rolled into the back of his head. We took his temperature and the mercury in it shot up past 101 F. We rushed him to the hospital, where he was taken into the intensive care unit and 4 hours later the doctor came and told us our son had meningitis and was in critical condition and that they were suspecting Group B Strep.
He had become a victim of a late-onset GBS infection. He was on ventilators and monitors for almost 3 months. Even with the anti-seizure medication, he would have uncontrollable seizures. he swelled up several times to almost twice his original size. He was able to be taken off the machines around 2 and a half months, because he finally was breathing on his own, but he stayed in the hospital for another month and a half because they had to monitor him.
I stayed with him during that time and pumped milk every 2 or three hours because he couldn't eat for a while. Eventually he did start breastfeeding, and that was a miracle in itself. He never cried after he became sick, and he didn't respond to sounds like a normal baby would because his brain damage was so severe. In the final days of that hospital stay we were told he wouldn't ever recover and would die and that we needed to prepare for it.
We were sent to another hospital for another month. There frequent tests were done to evaluate the extent of his injuries. We were told he had very little brain activity and that there was little if any hope of his survival. We were discharged, and we went home, but he needed constant care as though he was still in the hospital. Anti seizure medication every 8 hours, muscle stretches and exercises every three hours, even in the middle of the night because he was so stiff. We took him to many therapists and doctors to try to rehabilitate him. He would develop, but he would take one step forward and two steps back. Usually he would lose what he developed after a seizure.
He was hospitalized frequently because his immune system was shot, and he would develop pneumonia from even the simplest colds. That is because he was stationary when on his own. There were exercises we did with him, but if you can't move yourself, you usually develop an infection in your lungs because you can't clear them out by moving around.
Sepsis (blood poisoning) was a common diagnoses in his paperwork, and that was because the bacteria still lived in pockets inside of him. He became sick in November 2002 with a cold that progressed to pneumonia, even while we stayed in the hospital with him for three months. He had shown an improvement, and was sent home with us. We were on top of the world to be back home, and have him responding to us again. Two weeks later he died. Blood work showed that he had no platelets in his system, and his body had used up its last resources to survive. He was 2 years old.
Many of the doctors at his hospital told us that they had never seen a baby as sick as he was, live as long as he did, and I am sure it is because he knew we loved him. That gives me peace. My son's death could have been prevented. Because his infection was late onset, there is a 50 percent chance that he got it from me even though I was tested for it in the States before I traveled to Hungary to give birth. Perhaps I picked it up in Hungary because I had a fever the week before I delivered, and the doctors prescribed penicillin for me and sent me home without even checking on my bag of waters or running any tests. This could have killed the bacteria in small amounts but left enough to infect the baby. Or he could have picked it up in the hospital after birth.
Symptoms of GBS
Many infants that are born to GBS carrying parents are not even affected by it. but those who are, can suffer from asthma to meningitis, and even death. Typically, the symptoms of an early onset GBS infection is breathing problems at birth. But late-onset GBS infection can be meningitis, and/or death. One source states that of those infants that develop meningitis, up to 50 percent suffer lasting neurological damage that can include cerebral palsy, sight and hearing loss, mental retardation, learning disabilities and seizures. (March of Dimes)
* High-pitched cry, shrill moaning, whimpering
* Marked irritability, inconsolable crying
* Grunting as if constipated
* Projectile vomiting
* Feeds poorly or refuses to eat
* Sleeping too much, not waking for feedings
* High or low temperature; hands and feet may still feel cold even with a fever
* Blotchy, red, or tender skin
* Blue, gray, or pale skin due to lack of oxygen
* Fast, slow, or difficult breathing
* Body stiffening, uncontrollable jerking
* Listless, floppy, or not moving an arm or leg
* Tense or bulgy spot on top of head
* Blank stare
Please don't wait for signs to present themselves, as it may be already too late. Rather, get tested for GBS and follow through with the treatment that is offered.
Self-treating GBS - a dangerous thing
It is dangerous to pre-treat yourself, as many of the holistic methods suggest. I recently read a posting on the NaturalChildbirth.og (read it here) that suggested putting betadine in your vagina, eating garlic and fresh fruits for a number of weeks and then the GBS will go away. That is not true. Treatment must be given during labor.
Strep B bacteria can live in your rectum, or your urinary tract, or your vagina. Betadine swabs in the vagina may help, but you won't get all of the bacteria out of your system. Garlic might help boost your immunity, but it is not a cure all. Food should not be a substitute for medical care.
Prevention is key
Most cases of group B strep infection in newborns can be prevented by giving those pregnant women that tested positive for GBS or are at risk for it antibiotics during labor. Antibiotic treatment before labor does not prevent group B strep infection in newborns. Some women refuse to be tested for GBS, but it is a serious thing, and that decision can mean life or death for your child. Even though the chances of your child becoming sick are somewhat small, it is not impossible. I can't imagine any good parent willing to put their children at risk.
Mothers who test positive for GBS are not usually tested in future pregnancies, but are treated as though they would be positive for it. GBS comes and goes...and even though there are NO false positives for the GBS tests, for mothers' peace of mind and as a precaution, they will be treated. Human beings are made up of and are vehicles for bacteria. GBS does not normally affect adults, unless they have weakened immune systems, or the bacteria were to enter the blood stream.
Further, the Directors of Health Promotion and Education website states: "Any pregnant woman who has already had a baby with group B strep infection or who has a urinary tract infection caused by group B strep should be given antibiotics during labor. Pregnant women who are colonized with group B strep should be offered antibiotics at the time of labor or rupture of the membranes.
"Colonization with group B strep can be detected late in pregnancy (35-37 weeks' gestation) by a special test of secretions from the vagina and rectum. Unfortunately, some babies still get group B strep infection despite testing and antibiotic treatment. Vaccines to prevent group B strep infection are being developed."
A needle stick now vs. long term care later
That site also mentioned how painful poking the infant with needles to do blood work with are, and the possibility of the child getting thrush from antibiotic treatment. Imagine how painful it is for that infant to have his brain and spinal cord inflamed and to be fed by tubes for 4 months? Imagine living a short but painful life...and imagine the pain of losing your child in the end? I believe that the pain of needles poking the baby and thrush is a small price to pay to avoid the latter.
I was reading yesterday that GBS is starting to be recognized as a disease because it is becoming the biggest danger for newborns and pregnant women. Statistics show that It affects 1 in every 2,000 babies born in the US. Between 10 and 30 percent of pregnant women carry the GBS bacterium in the vagina or rectal area, but few babies of these women actually develop an infection.
Group B vs. Group A Strep
Group B streptococcus should not be confused with Group A streptococcus, which commonly causes strep throat and, rarely, a potentially deadly destruction of flesh(March of Dimes).
GBS and sexual activity
One of the newest rumors I have seen about GBS on the Natural Childbirth board is that Group B strep is a sexually transmitted disease. It is not. Bacteria can be transmitted sexually, but it can also be picked up any number of ways. One source stated that GBS bacteria usually do not cause genital symptoms or discomfort and are not linked with increased sexual activity. According to Group B Strep International, women found to carry GBS do not need to change their sexual practices. This information might be helpful to some people who feel the need to become suspicious of their partners should they come up positive for GBS.
The Group B Strep Association This site has great links with short answers to questions but very good information on GBS as well
Maternal and Child Health Problems A government site with links to more information and phone numbers.