Group B Strep Awareness -- Ensuring Your Baby's Safety

by Platt Devost

Strep B AwarenessAs many as 40 percent of women already have Group B strep in their bodies. The bacteria are commonly found in the vagina and rectum.

GBS isn't a sexually transmitted infection. You can have GBS without knowing you have it.

Typically, you won't feel sick or have any symptoms from GBS. It's not even harmful to you or your partner.

The bacteria could harm your baby, on the other hand. Here's how you can protect your baby's health and ensure your baby's safety.

GBS Could Harm Your Baby

According to the GBS International website, GBS is the leading infectious killer of newborns.

The bacterium poses little risk to adults, but it can threaten a newborn's life. Babies infected with GBS face increased risk of pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis.

If your baby contacts GBS, he or she can get an active infection that leads to the need for antibiotics after birth, swelling in the brain, spinal cord or other locations.

Treating your GBS with antibiotics dramatically decreases the risk that your baby will develop disease.

Testing for GBS

GBS, beta strep and Group B strep are names for the same thing. Between 35 and 37 weeks, you'll be offered screening for GBS.

A vagina and rectal swab is checked for GBS. The test doesn't hurt and doesn't have any risks to you or your baby.

Keeping Your Baby Safe

If your culture shows you have the bacteria, you'll be given IV antibiotics during labor. This cuts your baby's risk of infection. You'll also be given antibiotics any time during pregnancy that your urine cultures tests positive for GBS.

If you test positive, your health care provider will strongly recommend that you receive intravenous antibiotics during labor. The antibiotics shouldn't interfere with your mobility in labor or delivery. They're given every four to six hours and take about 20 minutes to go in. At that point the tubing can be removed from the catheter, giving you more freedom to move.

The CDC also recommends that you should receive antibiotics if:

  • Labor starts at before 37 weeks
  • Your water breaks 18 or more hours before delivery
  • You have a fever during labor

Babies whose GBS-positive moms do not receive antibiotics during labor face face 20 times the risk of contacting the infection. If you receive preventative antibiotics, you have only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby with an infection. If you test positive for GBS and does not get antibiotics during labor, your baby has a 1 in 200 chance of developing GBS disease.

Have you tested positive for GBS? How was it treated?

Medical references:
- "Group B Strep: Prevention in Newborns." Center for Disease Control and Prevention; page last updated May 7, 2012.