An estimated 1 in 4 pregnant women carry GBS, a type of bacteria that’s naturally found in the digestive and lower reproductive tracts of women and men. Carrying GBS doesn’t mean you have an infection or are unclean; anyone can carry GBS. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that GBS is the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns in this country.
Most women don’t have any symptoms of GBS. It can, however, cause vaginal burning, itching or discharge that may be mistaken for a yeast infection (and incorrectly treated). It can also cause bladder (urinary tract) infections, with or without symptoms. At the first prenatal visit, we routinely culture urine as GBS can be found in the urine of affected women.
At Women’s Health, we work closely with you to help your baby remain healthy. It’s now the standard of care for all pregnant women to be tested for GBS in the third trimester of every pregnancy (levels of GBS can change and each pregnancy can be different). Testing involves taking a vaginal and rectal sample with a swab and checking it for the presence of GBS.
If you test positive for GBS, you’ll be glad to know that for most GBS infections that are present prior to birth, transmission to your baby can be prevented if you receive at least 4 hours (2 doses) of intravenous (IV, or through the vein) antibiotics just before delivery.
Some additional guidance:
• See your doctor right away if you have any symptoms of urinary tract infection and/or vaginitis
• Be aware that bacteria can be passed between sexual partners, including through oral contact
• Plan ahead if you have short labors or live far from the hospital as we start the antibiotics as soon as your water breaks or active labor begins (to ensure enough time for you to receive at least 4 hours of IV antibiotics before delivery)
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to our health. Be aware of GBS and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about it.
Group B Strep International (GBSI) is a non-profit organization that promotes international awareness and prevention of group B strep disease in babies before birth through early infancy. You can visit www.groupbstrepinternational.org for more information.