In the UK, up to two-thirds of GBS disease is early onset (showing within the first 6 days of life).
Early-onset GBS infection usually presents as sepsis with pneumonia. These “early-onset” infections are usually apparent at or soon after birth, with the typical signs including:
- Grunting, noisy breathing, moaning, seems to be working hard to breathe when you look at the chest or tummy, or not breathing at all.
- Be very sleepy and/or unresponsive
- Inconsolable crying
- Be unusually floppy
- Not feeding well or not keeping milk down
- Have a high or low temperature (if parents have a thermometer), and/or be hot or cold to the touch
- Have changes in their skin colour (including blotchy skin)
- Have an abnormally fast or slow heart rate or breathing rate
- Have low blood pressure (identified by tests done in hospital)
- Have low blood sugar (identified by tests done in hospital)
Most early-onset GBS infections show symptoms within the first 12 hours after birth so will often be identified at the maternity unit.
The rate of early-onset GBS infection in the UK and Republic of Ireland increased from 0.48 per 1,000 live births in 2000, to 0.57 per 1,000 live births in 2014/5 (click here for more info).
Most early-onset GBS infections are potentially preventable when Mums whose babies are at raised risk of developing the infection are given intravenous antibiotics in labour.
Risk-based prevention guidelines, introduced in the UK in November 2003, had been expected to bring about a fall in early-onset GBS infections of 50-60%. Sadly that has not happened.
You can download our poster highlighting the most common signs of GBS infection in babies here.