Approximately one in every five women carry group B streptococcus in their vagina without knowing it. Learn more about the dangers, signs, risks and treatment of Group B Strep and how it affects pregnancy.
Group Bstreptococcus, often simply referred to group B
strep or even as GBS is a type of bacteria
that commonly lives in some people’s bodies. It can be dangerous in some
situations causing a bacterial infection in those more susceptible such as
infants and the elderly. However, most people that carry it don’t even know
they are carriers because they usually show no signs or symptoms. Approximately
one in every five women carry group B
streptococcus in their vagina without knowing it.
What Does Group B
Streptococcus Mean for Pregnancy?
Most women that carry group B streptococcus have no
problems because of it. The majority of the time, the woman wouldn’t even know
she had it. However, if a woman is a carrier of group B streptococcus at the
time that she gives birth, there is a
chance that the bacteria could transfer to the baby as the baby goes
through the birth canal which could cause potentially serious problems for the
Dangers of Group B
Streptococcus in Pregnancy
Having group B streptococcus is usually harmless but
having it during pregnancy can cause potential harm to your bub. If a woman is
a carrier of group B streptococcus when she gives birth, the baby will come in
contact with the bacteria as they are born. A baby that comes in contact with group B streptococcus has a chance of
getting a bacterial infection. This is especially dangerous in a newborn
How Common is Group B
Streptococcus Infection in Babies?
Approximately 1 in 250 babies will become infected.
The vast majority of babies that become infected get early-onset group B
streptococcus infection. This means that they become ill within 7 days after
birth, although most begin showing symptoms within hours after birth. Some
babies may get late-onset group B streptococcus infection which can occur
anytime within the first 3 months after birth.
Risks of Group B
Streptococcus Infection in Babies
There are many
different illnesses that a baby may face due to getting a group B streptococcus
infection. All of them are dangerous and can be very hard on babies.
Sometimes things can become so severe that babies may not survive the group B
1. Pneumonia from Group B
One of the potential complications that can arise due
to group B streptococcus infection is pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs where the lungs become
inflamed and fill with fluid. This can make your bub have a difficult time
breathing. Symptoms of pneumonia in babies include a bad cough, coughing up
mucous, having trouble eating/not eating well, fever, and rapid and/or shallow
2. Septicaemia from Group B
Septicaemia is an infection
of the blood, sometimes called blood poisoning. It is very serious and very
dangerous for anyone but especially for little babies. It’s imperative that treatment begin immediately
for septicaemia to ensure the best chance of survival for your baby. Symptoms
of septicaemia in babies start out similar to the flu and include fever,
chills, high-pitched crying, fatigue, lethargy, pale and blotchy complexion,
and a blank stare.
3. Meningitis from Group B
Meningitis from group B streptococcus is closely related
to septicaemia as it occurs when the bacteria travels through the bloodstream
and infects the lining of the brain and
spinal cord. The lining is made of membranes called meninges that become
inflamed when meningitis occurs. Treatment for meningitis should begin as
quickly as possible to avoid serious complications such as deafness and mental
disability and even death.Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck,
sensitivity to light, vomiting, fatigue, and lack of appetite.
4. Treatment for Group B Streptococcus
Infection in Babies
If your baby gets group B streptococcus infection,
they will require immediate treatment to give them the best shot at surviving
and having minimal long-term complications. A baby with a group B streptococcus
infection will need to be hospitalized for treatment. The treatment typically consists of intravenous antibiotics for at
least 10 days. Unfortunately, even with treatment about one in every ten babies
that gets a group B streptococcus infection won’t survive it.
How Do I Know if I’m a
Carrier of Group B Streptococcus?
Since there are no symptoms the majority of the time
in a woman that carries group B streptococcus, you probably won’t be able to know if you have it or not unless you are
specifically tested for it. Most hospitals will do a routine test for group
B streptococcus on all pregnant woman so they can know for sure if a woman is
positive for it or not.
Testing for Group B
The test for group B streptococcus is very simple and
quick. Most of the time, your pregnancy health care provider will perform the
test when you are about 35 to 37 weeks
along in your pregnancy at one of your normal appointments. You will be asked
to undress from the waist down and lay down. Your health care provider will either
take a swab of your vaginal area and
possibly of the area around your anus or they may have you take the swab
yourself. The swab will then be tested to see if you are positive for group B
streptococcus or not.
Testing Positive for Group B
Streptococcus in Pregnancy
Finding out that you’ve tested positive for group B
streptococcus can be scary since group B streptococcus can be so dangerous for
babies. However, with proper treatment,
the chances of your baby becoming infected with group B streptococcus can be
significantly lowered. If you do test positive for
being a carrier of group B streptococcus during pregnancy, your healthcare
provider will most likely recommend that you receive intravenous antibiotics
during labour to reduce the chance of the bacteria being spread to and possibly
causing infection in your baby. If possible,it is best to start receiving the intravenous antibiotics at least 4
hours before your baby arrives. Typically, you’ll receive antibiotics
through IV every 4 hours from the time your water breaks or your labour starts
until your baby is born.
Are There Risks Involved in
There is some risk involved with the administration of
antibiotics to try to prevent group B streptococcus infection in babies.
Although not super common, some people do have a serious allergic reaction to certain
antibiotics. Other possible negative side effects include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Antibiotics can also increase your
chance of a yeast infection and the chance of your baby developing thrush.
However, these side effects are
considered to be outweighed by the lowered chance of the baby being infected
by group B streptococcus.
Will I Have to Receive
Treatment for All Future Pregnancies?
A common concern of women that test positive for group
B streptococcus in one pregnancy is that they may end up requiring treatment in
the form of intravenous antibiotics during labour for all of their future
pregnancies. This is not the case, however. Actually, whether or not a particular person carries group B streptococcus may
regularly change. You may carry the group B streptococcus bacteria during
one of your pregnancies and none of your other pregnancies. However, you may
carry it for all or none of your pregnancies. That is why it is generally recommended to be tested for it during each individual
Try Not to Worry
The idea of group B streptococcus and the problems it
can cause can definitely be scary and cause you to worry, but it’s best if you can try to relax and not
be too concerned.Stress isn’t good for you and your bub and only about 20%
of women are even carriers of the bacteria. From that, antibiotics given during
labour are able to prevent infections in most babies. Even of the babies that
do get infected, the great majority of
babies survive with proper treatment. The best thing you can do is just
relax and follow the advice of your pregnancy health care provider.
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