Group B Streptococcus & Pregnancy

Group B Streptococcus & Pregnancy

What is Group B Streptococcus (GBS)?

Group B Strep (GBS) is a bacterial infection that usually does not cause serious illness. GBS can be found in several different areas, including the digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts. It can be present in up to 30% of pregnant women, commonly found in the vagina and rectum. Although GBS is often mistaken for a sexually transmitted disease, it is not. For most healthy adults, GBS is harmless, but it can be serious for pregnant women and their babies. If a woman is GBS positive during pregnancy, there is a risk of passing the infection to her baby during delivery. Therefore, GBS-positive mothers are treated during labor.

Symptoms of GBS Infection During Pregnancy

A positive GBS infection may cause no symptoms at all, but some common symptoms include:

  • Bladder infection: Pain or burning with urination, frequency, urgency, or blood in the urine.
  • Kidney infection: Symptoms of a bladder infection, along with fever, back pain, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Amniotic infection: Fever, abdominal tenderness, and tachycardia (increased heart rate) in the mother or fetus.

Effects on the Baby

GBS infection is passed from mother to baby during delivery in about 2 out of every 100 babies born to GBS-positive mothers who did not receive treatment.

Early Infection

  • Develops shortly after delivery as the baby passes through the birth canal.
  • Occurs within the first seven days of birth, but most cases occur within the first six hours.

Late Infection

  • Occurs after the first seven days of birth.
  • Half of late infections may come from other sources, such as another person infected with GBS.

GBS infection can cause inflammation of the baby’s lungs, blood, skin, bones, joints, spinal cord, or brain. GBS infection leads to death in about 5% of GBS-positive babies.

How is GBS Tested?

GBS is most accurately tested via a culture swab. During one of your visits between 35-37 weeks, your provider will test for GBS with a vaginal and rectal swab. The results may take up to two days. If you have symptoms or go into preterm labor, your provider will test you earlier.

Treatment Options for GBS

To reduce the risk of GBS infection to your baby, your provider will recommend treatment with antibiotics during your labor. This recommendation is given to all women who test positive for GBS during pregnancy. For women who are GBS positive and do not receive treatment during labor, the neonatal risk of infection is 20 times higher compared to those who receive treatment.

Treatment with antibiotics decreases the number of bacteria that can be harmful to the baby during birth. Antibiotics are given through an IV during labor; if given earlier, the GBS may grow back because the bacteria grow so fast. Penicillin is the preferred choice of antibiotic treatment to prevent GBS infection in babies. If you are allergic to penicillin, your provider will choose a different antibiotic.

Young Woman With Broken Leg Using Mobile Phone

Register for MyChart

Easy and secure access to your appointment information, test results, self check-in and scheduling options.