In honor of International Group B Strep Awareness Month and Cord Blood Awareness Month in July, OBGYN North wanted to take the time to share information about these two topics. For the sake of pregnant women and their unborn babies, OBGYN North believes it is critical to have proper care in pregnancy and to disseminate factual information to mothers ahead of labor and delivery.
Our practice recognizes all of the risks and opportunities our patients can experience throughout the entire process of pregnancy and delivery. There are so many pieces of information to consider when we are pregnant, and it is important to have a strong team to decipher the overwhelming amount of data. We focus on all aspects of prenatal health which includes appropriately treating Group B Strep when it is present on the mother. Likewise, we work hard to communicate the latest research on cord blood to our pregnant mothers so they can make informed decisions on how to best utilize their child’s cord blood collected shortly after birth. Both of these topics are essential at the birth of a child, but prior education and preparation allow for decisions and plans to be made well ahead of delivery.
Information on Group B Strep (GBS)
Approximately 1 in 4 pregnant women carry GBS, the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns. GBS can also infect babies during pregnancy and the first few months of life. Not all babies exposed to GBS become infected, but, for those who do, the results can be devastating. GBS can cause babies to be miscarried, stillborn, born prematurely, become very sick, have lifelong handicaps, or die. Fortunately there are many ways to help protect babies from Group B Strep, such as adhering to the CDC guidelines on GBS screening and prophylaxis.
Group B Streptococcus, or Streptococcus agalactiae, is a type of bacteria that is naturally found in the digestive tract and birth canal in up to 1 in 4 pregnant women. Unfortunately, babies can be infected by GBS before birth and even up to about 6 months of age due to their underdeveloped immune systems.
The manner in which Group B Strep germs invade the womb is becoming better understood. These bacteria have special attractant molecules that can take hold of vaginal tissues. Many Group B Strep germs also make special molecules that can dissolve through the cervix, or the mucous between the vagina and the cervix. Both the mother and the baby have powerful defenses against Group B Strep, but these can be overwhelmed by too many germs or not enough defensive factors, such as antibodies that can specifically attack Group B Strep. Uterine or womb contractions can move infectious fluids from the vagina up inside the womb.
GBS infections which occur within the first week of life are called “early-onset” GBS disease. In 2002, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommended that all pregnant women should be screened for GBS and, if positive, given IV antibiotics during labor and delivery to help prevent early-onset GBS disease. Fortunately, this has resulted in a drastic decline in the incidence of GBS infections within the first week of life. However, GBS remains the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns in the United States.
Late-onset GBS disease occurs in babies over 1 week of age up to several months old. Babies can become infected with GBS by sources other than the mother. There are currently no prevention protocols in place to help avoid late-onset GBS disease. However, being able to recognize the symptoms of GBS infection in babies is imperative for prompt medical treatment and better outcomes.
We screen for Group B Strep towards the end of pregnancy and when there is a presence of it within the mother, we administer penicillin during labor to deliver antibiotic to the baby prior to birth to protect the newborn. We feel strongly about the importance of Group B Strep antibiotic prophylaxis as prevention is the key to lifelong health, and we are confident that proper care can protect against an unnecessary illness and hospitalization for a newborn child.
Information on Cord Blood
Today, stem cells are mainly used in the treatment of rare diseases and in tissue regeneration. They largely come from one of three sources, cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood. Cord blood stem cells are found in the blood of the umbilical cord. With their instant availability at birth and demonstrated utility, cord blood is quickly becoming a well known source of stem cells by transplant physicians.
After a baby is born, and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, the blood left in the umbilical cord can be collected and the stem cells extracted and stored for potential use in a future medical application for that child or a sibling. Today, there are nearly 80 conditions that can be treated with cord blood and experimental treatments using cord blood for cerebral palsy and Type 1 diabetes are underway.
As a speaker for Viacord, one of the cord blood bank companies, Dr. Sebestyen receives updates on cord blood collection and research often. The developments in stem cell research are increasingly exciting and new advents in treatment for certain diseases are becoming promising. It’s important to have the facts about cord blood to make an informed decision about whether or not to bank. It is a unique insurance policy that cannot be collected again.
For more information about Group B Strep in pregnancy or about cord blood, ask one of our providers at your next appointment.