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Pregnancy and Group B Strep

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Healthy pregnancy: What is group B strep?

From ultrasounds to glucose testing, your OB GYN has many tools to check on your health during pregnancy. As you get close to your due date, he or she will likely screen you for group B strep (GBS). While you may have never heard of it, GBS is a common type of bacteria. 

GBS isn’t usually harmful to you before pregnancy, but you can pass it to your baby during delivery. That’s why doctors recommend testing for every pregnant woman.  

How common is group B strep?

Because GBS is so common, you may have this type of bacteria in your body and not know it. It’s found in your intestines, urinary tract, and genital area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 4 women carry GBS. 



What should I expect during screening?

Most OB GYNs test women for GBS when they are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant. It’s usually done as part of one of your routine prenatal checkups. Your doctor will take samples from your genital and rectal areas using a swab. Then, he or she will send these samples to a lab. Your doctor typically gets results back in a few days. 



What are the chances of passing group B strep to my baby?

Without treatment, the American Pregnancy Association says 1 in 200 babies with mothers who are carriers of the bacteria will develop symptoms from GBS. However, this number drops drastically with treatment—to as little as 1 in 4,000. 

The March of Dimes says you may be at an increased risk if your baby is premature or your water breaks more than 18 hours before delivery. Your risk is also higher if you’ve had a UTI during pregnancy due to GBS or had a previous baby with GBS.



What happens if my baby gets group B strep?

Signs of a GBS infection in a baby can happen a few hours after birth. But they can also happen a week or a month after delivery. Babies with GBS may develop an infection in the blood, lungs, or lining of the brain. In these rare cases, doctors will treat your baby with antibiotics. 



How can I reduce the risks of group B strep?

To reduce the risk of passing GBS to your baby, you’ll get an antibiotic—like penicillin—during labor. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, you should have IV antibiotics at least four hours before delivery. Oral antibiotics or medications before labor aren’t needed. 

For those with a scheduled C-section, talk to your doctor about the right plan. With a C-section, there isn’t a chance to pass the infection to your baby like with a vaginal delivery. However, you may still need them if your water breaks before your planned C-section.   

In the end, if you test positive for GBS, it typically isn’t a reason to worry. With screening and preventive antibiotics, your OB GYN can help you greatly reduce the risk of passing GBS to your baby. Then, you can focus on having a healthy delivery.  


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