Why Test for Group B Strep during Pregnancy?

Why-Test-for-Group-B-Strep-during-PregnancyDr. Morice is an experienced OB/GYN in Morgan City, Louisiana. Today we are discussing group B streptococcus. Women in their third trimester (between 35-37 weeks) are routinely tested for group B streptococcus (GBS).

What is group B strep?

Group B strep is a type of bacteria that many people have living in their intestines, and it can also live in a woman’s vagina and rectum. About 25% of women have GBS living in their vagina and rectum.GBS is normal flora of the body, is not dangerous to the woman, and often does not cause any symptoms. It is also not a sexually transmitted disease.

GBS, however, poses serious health risks to your newborn baby if passed during labor. Therefore, pregnant women are routinely screened for GBS between weeks 35-37 of pregnancy.

What if my baby contracts GBS during labor?

GBS can affect a newborn within 24 hours, known as early-onset GBS, or later, known as late-onset GBS. Early-onset GBS is characterized by breathing, kidney, and heart and blood pressure problems. Early-onset GBS can lead to sepsis, pneumonia, or meningitis.

The same signs and symptoms appearing with weeks or months of birth characterize late-onset GBS. Meningitis is often seen in newborns with late-onset GBS.

GBS is fatal to 5% of babies, and can lead to long-term health problems in those babies that do survive, such as disabilities, vision loss, and cerebral palsy.

How do I get tested for GBS?

Your doctor will take a swab of your vagina and rectum. This is done with a Q-tip and is painless. The sample is then cultured in a lab to determine if GBS is present.

What if I have GBS?

If you are a carrier for GBS, don’t worry. That doesn’t automatically mean your baby will contract the bacteria. 1 in 200 women who are carriers for GBS pass it on to their baby during labor.

To decrease the odds of passing it on, antibiotics may be given when a woman’s water breaks or starts labor. Treatment of GBS before this period is ineffective, as the bacteria live in your intestine and will repopulate rather quickly.

Antibiotic treatment is almost always administered to GBS positive women who have other certain risk factors, such as a fever during pregnancy, a water that broke more than 18 hours before labor, or preterm labor (before 37 weeks). If you are GBS positive but don’t have any of these risk factors, it is up to you whether or not to take antibiotics during labor. Discuss this option with your doctor.

The antibiotic most often given is penicillin, which kills GBS but is safe for your baby. There are few risk factors with taking this antibiotic (unless you are allergic), but your doctor will review them so you can make an informed decision. If you are unsure if you are allergic, a skin test can be given.

Clearly, a GBS test is an important test during third trimester pregnancy. Dr. Morice is an experienced OB/GYN and tubal reversal surgeon in Morgan City, Louisiana. Call our office at (985) 702-BABY (229) or email us at to make an appointment.

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