What is Group B Streptococcus (GBS)?

What is Group B Strep (GBS)? | Baby Chick

What is Group B Streptococcus (GBS)?

During your pregnancy, usually between your 35th and 37th week, your care provider will do a routine screening for vaginal strep B. They are checking to see whether you are positive or negative for Group B Strep since it is found in about 10-30% of women. But what is Group B Strep (GBS)? How does it affect you, your labor, and your baby? Here’s what you need to know.

*Disclaimer: This post is not written to be medical advice. As a birth professional myself, I get asked a lot of these questions, and I wanted to provide the answers that I have found through the years of supporting pregnant women, attending births, speaking to medical professionals and birth workers, and doing research. I always want to provide quality information that helps women feel more prepared before, during, and after pregnancy and birth. As always, consult with your care provider for further information.

What is GBS?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterial infection that naturally lives in the intestines and migrates down to the urinary tract, vagina and/or rectum. (Group B strep is not a sexually transmitted disease.) Both men and women can be “carriers” or are “colonized” with GBS. For most people there are no symptoms of carrying the GBS bacteria.

How Do You Get Tested for GBS?

It is now the standard in the US for all pregnant women to be routinely tested for GBS at 35 to 37 weeks during each pregnancy. (The levels of GBS can change during each pregnancy so your results could differ from pregnancy to pregnancy. This is why they check every pregnancy regardless if you were previously positive or negative.)

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Testing involves a swab of both your vagina and rectum, which is then taken to a lab to see if GBS grows. Test results are usually available within 24 to 48 hours.

NOTE: Always inform your care provider if you are taking any new antibiotics and/or are using vaginal medications. These medications may cause false negative or false positive results.

What Happens If I Am GBS Positive?

If you test positive for GBS, all this means is that you are a carrier. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing will change during your prenatal visits (since antibiotics given before labor begins has shown to be ineffective at preventing the transmission of GBS), but you will be given antibiotics during labor to protect your baby from contracting GBS during delivery.

NOTE: If you are GBS positive, it does not guarantee that your baby will also test positive and become ill.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you have tested positive and are not high risk, your chances of delivering a baby with GBS are 1 in 200 babies if antibiotics are not given, and 1 in 4,000 if antibiotics are given.

If you are GBS positive, there are some symptoms that you will need to watch out for because they may indicate you are at a higher risk of delivering a baby with GBS. Those symptoms are:

  • Labor or rupture of membranes before 37 weeks
  • Rupture of membranes 18-hours or more before delivery
  • Fever during labor
  • A previous baby with GBS

How Will GBS Affect My Baby?

GBS can be passed from mother to child before or during delivery, and it can appear within hours to days after the delivery of your child. Early-onset symptoms in newborns include:

  • Signs and symptoms occurring within hours of delivery
  • Sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, which are the most common complications
  • Breathing problems
  • Fever
  • Difficult with feeding & breathing
  • Irritability or lethargy
  • Heart and blood pressure instability
  • Gastrointestinal and kidney problems
  • Blue tint to their skin
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NOTE: Early-onset GBS occurs more frequently than late-onset.

Late-onset GBS symptoms in newborns include:

  • Signs and symptoms occurring within a week or a few months of delivery
  • Meningitis, which is the most common symptom

According to the CDC, GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns.

How Can I Protect My Baby From Group B Strep?

The CDC recommends that antibiotics be given every 4 hours (through an IV) during labor. Most doctors want you to have several rounds of antibiotics before your baby is born, but at the very least one round 4-hours before your child’s birth. This is why most doctors do not want you to labor at home very long so that they can make sure that you receive enough antibiotics.

The most common antibiotics given for GBS during labor are penicillin and ampicillin. If you have an allergy to penicillin, you will probably be given cefazolinclindaymycin, or vancomycin since these are alternative antibiotics.

Do I Need to Be Treated for GBS If I Am Having a C-Section?

If you are GBS positive and labor has not yet begun and/or your water has not broken, you do not need to be treated for GBS during delivery. However, if you are GBS positive and labor has begun and/or your water has broken, you will still be required to be treated for GBS even if you are having a cesarean delivery.


Resources:

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About the Author /

Nina is The Baby Chick® & CEO of Baby Chick®. She is a baby planner, birth doula, postpartum doula, childbirth educator, newborn care specialist, and a mother. With over eight years of experience, she has supported hundreds of families during their pregnancies, births, and postpartum journeys.

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I'm seriously needing some of these things tonight to start a new week. Hoping you mamas get some self care time too! 💕⁠
📷: @hallmark⁠
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No, the blood won't drain out of baby and go backwards into the placenta.⁠
No, your baby is not more likely to get sick from jaundice.⁠
Yes, your baby will still be getting oxygen while they figure out breathing, especially important if they need resuscitation.⁠
Yes, your baby will have better iron levels for the first year of their life.⁠
Look at how thick and engorged this cord still is at 4 and 18 minutes after baby was born. Just imagine how much blood baby would have lost if the cord had been clamped immediately, or at 60 seconds, 90 seconds, or 3 minutes! The placenta was expelled immediately before the 18 minute photo was taken. The pulse in the cord could still be felt even AFTER THE PLACENTA HAD BEEN DELIVERED! The cord was finally clamped and cut more than an hour after birth at 73 minutes. ❤️⁠
📷: @lawrenrosephotography⁠
Informative post and words by @bundleborn⁠
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Here are some tips to combat isolation:⁠
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1️⃣ Get outside when possible.⁠
2️⃣ Video chat with friends/family.⁠
3️⃣ Join a virtual group.⁠
4️⃣ Invite someone to come over.⁠
5️⃣ Find a local mom's group.⁠
6️⃣ Listen to the radio or a podcast (it's interesting how this can make us feel connected with others)⁠
7️⃣ Run an errand--even grabbing a coffee via drive-thru can feel good.⁠
8️⃣ Get to know your neighbors.⁠
What would you add to the list?⁠
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Flying on a plane with your little one for the first time can be terrifying. Are they going to cry the whole time? How will they handle the airport, the turbulence and the landing? Well we have some tips that will help prepare you for your flight with your kids. Here's what to do to have a more enjoyable experience 😊 {Link in bio!}⁠
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