Group B Streptococcus (GBS)
What is GBS?
GBS is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in many healthy adults. GBS is not the same species of bacteria as group A streptococcus which causes strep throat.
People with GBS often carry the bacteria without any ill effect or symptoms. In healthy adults GBS is usually harmless, however a pregnant lady with GBS can pass it on to her baby during delivery which can put the baby at risk of developing severe infections which could end up being life threatening. Fortunately, with proper screening and treatment a mother who carries GBS can reduce the risk of her baby developing an illness.
How Can I protect my baby from GBS?
Fortunately most cases of GBS disease in new born babies can be prevented by a simple test carried out on the mother between 35 and 37 weeks. This involves your doctor or midwife collecting a swab sample from your vagina and rectum which is sent off to a laboratory and indicates whether you are a carrier of GBS. If you are a GBS carrier you should receive antibiotics through an IV when your water breaks or during labour. Antibiotics can prevent the passing of GBS to your baby. You should also have IV antibiotics during labour if you have previously had a baby that developed GBS disease or if you have had a urinary tract infection during your pregnancy caused by GBS. Taking antibiotics before you go into labour will not prevent the transmission of GBS because the bacteria can grow too quickly.
What should I do if I am a GBS carrier?
Talk to your doctor about a plan for labour. Let your doctor know if you are allergic to any antibiotics. Go to the hospital when your water breaks or when your labour begins. Antibiotics work the best if you receive them four hours before your baby’s birth. Tell your labour and delivery team that you are a GBS carrier. Expect to receive IV antibiotics.
What should I do if I go into labour before being tested for GBS?
If your water breaks or you go into labour and you have not been tested for GBS let your delivery team know you have not been tested. Let them know if you are allergic to any antibiotics. Regardless of your GBS status expect to receive IV antibiotics if: you have pre-term labour (before 37 weeks), your water breaks more than 18 hours before you go into labour or you have a fever during labour.
What are the possible complications of GBS disease?
If a baby develops GBS disease the complications can be life threatening and may include:
Sepsis: A condition that occurs when the infection travels through the bloodstream
Pneumonia: An infection that occurs in the lungs
Meningitis: An infection of the linings and fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
Where can I get more information about GBS?
Talk to your doctor or health care professional about protecting your baby from GBS and other health conditions