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.

If you notice any of these signs or are worried about your baby, you should urgently contact your healthcare professional and also mention GBS. If your baby has GBS infection, early diagnosis and treatment is important as delay could be very serious, or even fatal.

You can download our poster highlighting the most common signs of GBS infection in babies here.

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