Sepsis awareness on the Ruth R Ellbogen… - Wyoming Medical Center

Sepsis awareness on the Ruth R Ellbogen Family, Mother and Baby Center

Sep 14, 2016

A newborn in our Level II nursery.

By Monica Money, R.N., and Jennifer Gallagher, R.N.

September is Sepsis Awareness Month, and pregnant mothers and babies are not exempt from this life threatening illness.

So what is sepsis? Sepsis isn’t caused by a particular bug, virus or bacterium. Rather, it is your body’s toxic response to infection. While your body’s immune system was designed to fight off infection, it sometimes goes into overdrive and begins to attack your body.

Pregnancy success and longevity depend on both mom and baby to be healthy. One of the leading causes of preterm labor is infection — even mild infection. In fact, every mother at Wyoming Medical Center who presents with problems during her pregnancy has her urine tested to make sure she does not have a urinary tract infection — the most common infection during pregnancy.

Infections, left untreated, can progress from a mild inconvenience to pre-term delivery and even life-threatening sepsis in mom or baby. All pregnant women with any concerning symptoms should contact her physician or nearest triage facility to seek intervention prior to symptoms worsening. These symptoms include but are not limited to: cold or flu symptoms; abnormal vaginal discharge or lesions; discomfort, especially in the abdomen, back, bladder, chest or teeth; fever; or inability to keep food or drink down.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also recognized a more quiet source for sepsis in the newborn, and it can be screened for in pregnancy and treated prior to delivery. Group B Streptococcus, also known as GBS, is a type of bacterial infection that can live in the intestines and lower genital tract of a healthy person without any indication or problem. It is generally harmless; however, it can cause serious infections in those with compromised immune systems or in conjunction with other disease processes such as diabetes or cancer. This bacterium is potentially dangerous to the newborn baby during the first week of life if gone untreated. GBS is the leading cause of meningitis and sepsis in the newborn, but it can be prevented.

Interestingly, about 25 percent of pregnant women will be GBS carriers during their pregnancy. Every pregnant woman should be tested for GBS between 35 and 37 weeks. When you present to the hospital, your physician will discuss this risk factor with you if you happen to carry GBS and the antibiotics that will be used to help prevent illness in your baby.

In addition to GBS screening, it is important that every pregnant woman receives her initial pregnancy lab work which tests for diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis and urinary tract bacteria. Mothers should also discuss any situations that may make her susceptible to any of these diseases later on in the pregnancy if they occur after the initial lab work is drawn. This lab work will help the physician to determine the best care for baby and may be life saving to baby if caught in time.

Finally, exclusively breastfeeding newborn babies is the most reliable way to optimize health and prevent infection and sepsis in newborns. Exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life has been shown to decrease severe vomiting and diarrhea, ear infections, diabetes, obesity, allergies, Crohn’s disease and many other conditions.

We have excellent lactation staff and nurses in our Mother and Baby center who are happy to help with any of your breastfeeding needs. We also offer a breastfeeding class through our Childbirth Education Services.

All people — but especially pregnant women who have to worry about the health of both mother and baby — should know the symptoms of illness and to act promptly. Prevention is also the key to success. Get prenatal testing, and plan to exclusively breastfeed for at least six months to optimize the health of both mother and baby.


Jennifer Gallagher is a registered nurse and clinical education coordinator for obstetrics. She has worked at Wyoming Medical Center for 24 years, starting in 1992 when she washed dishes in the cafeteria. She has worked as an OB nurse for 13 years. She has a bachelors of nursing degree from the University of Wyoming and is certified in Electronic Fetal Monitoring and Maternal-Newborn Nursing. She also teaches our Childbirth Education Classes. Email her at


Monica Money is a registered nurse and clinical education coordinator for the nursery at the Ruth R. Ellbogen Family, Mother and Baby Center at Wyoming Medical Center. She has been at the hospital for three years and has been an OB/Nursery RN for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor of nursing degree from the University of Wyoming and is a Certified Lactation Counselor. She also directs the Neonatal Resuscitation Program Education for Wyoming Medical Center. Email her a