Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Group B Streptococcal Infections in Newborns - Topic Overview

What is group B streptococcal infection?

Group B streptococcal (group B strep) infection is a serious bacterial infection that is a leading cause of death and disability in newborns.

In the 1970s, about half of newborns with group B strep infection died. Today, due to early recognition and aggressive treatment of the infection, far fewer cases end in death.

What causes group B streptococcal infection?

Group B strep bacteria normally exist in the intestine, vagina, or rectum. A pregnant woman can transmit the bacteria to her baby during delivery. Some women are carriers of group B streptococcal bacteria, which means that they carry the bacteria but have no illness from it. It is unclear why some babies get group B strep infection and others do not.

Newborns may develop the infection hours after birth or during the first week of life, or it may happen several months later. Newborns who develop group B strep within the first week are most always infected by their mothers. It's not clear how babies who develop the infection later are exposed to the bacteria.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of group B strep may include high or low body temperature, irritability, low energy, raised respiratory rate, and trouble feeding. Newborns infected with group B strep may get a blood infection (sepsis) or lung infection (pneumonia). An infection of the fluid or tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) can also occur. Newborns thought to be infected with group B strep need medical care right away, as the infection can be deadly.

How is group B streptococcal infection diagnosed?

Pregnant women get tested for group B strep in the third trimester of pregnancy. Babies suspected of being infected are diagnosed at birth by testing their blood or spinal fluid or both for group B strep bacteria.

How is it treated?

Pregnant women who have group B strep infection or who are carriers of group B strep will be given antibiotics prior to delivery to prevent transmission of the bacteria to the newborn during delivery. If a woman is pregnant and has previously given birth to a child with group B strep infection or has had tests that show she carries the bacteria, she should be treated with antibiotics.

Newborns with the infection will also be given antibiotics. In addition to antibiotics, supportive care including fluids and ventilation will be given if needed. In some cases, a doctor will treat a newborn that is suspected of having group B strep infection before test results have shown infection. This is because not treating strep B infection in newborns can result in illness or death.

Having a baby by cesarean section does not prevent the transmission of group B strep bacteria.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Group B Streptococcal Infections in Newborns Topics

    Today on WebMD

    mother on phone holding baby
    When you should call 911.
    parents and baby
    Unexpected ways your life will change.
    baby acne
    What’s normal – and what’s not.
    baby asleep on moms shoulder
    Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

    mother holding baby at night
    mother with sick child
    Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
    Track Your Babys Vaccines
    Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
    Woman holding feet up to camera
    Father kissing newborn baby
    baby gear slideshow