G is for Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Group B Strep (GBS) is a bacterial infection in your vagina or rectum, and is fairly common.  GBS naturally occurs in the digestive and lower reproductive tracts of men and women and can occur in those who haven’t been sexually active.  GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and you cannot catch it from another person, or food or water.

During pregnancy you will be tested to determine if you have GBS.  This is typically done at or around your 36 week appointment with a vaginal and rectal swab.  If you test positive for GBS this simply lets the staff know you will need antibiotics administered during labor.  You will also want to talk to your doctor about the risks of having your membranes stripped with GBS if this is something you were considering. 

Testing positive for GBS does not mean you will always have it; it can come and go or it can stay permanently.  If you test positive for GBS for multiple pregnancies you may get labeled as ‘Chronic GBS’.

The only risk GBS presents to pregnant women is the chance of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) or uterine infection; symptoms of uterine infection include fever, belly pain, and high heart rate.  Antibiotics can usually cure the infection.  If the infection is not treated it can increase your chance of premature rupture of membranes (PROM), preterm labor, and stillbirth.  A UTI can cause a burning sensation when urinating; again this can be cured with antibiotics. 

Most babies these days have no complications from GBS however some are infected at birth which can cause them to become very sick.  Infection can occur if the baby swallows vaginal fluid during delivery.  There are two types of GBS infection in infants, early or late onset.  Early onset will present symptoms during the first week of life including fever, lethargy, and difficulty feeding.  Late onset GBS can occur anywhere from one week of life to a few months of life; symptoms include difficulty breathing, fever, lethargy, fussiness, and difficulty feeding.

Receiving antibiotics during labor is said to drastically decrease the chance that your baby will be infected with GBS.  The antibiotics are most effective when given at least 4 hours before delivery.  If you have not had the test or your results are not back from the lab yet, your doctor may want to administer antibiotics just to be safe. 

For more detailed information on Group B Strep, visit this article at Evidence Based Birth.

Next week I will be blogging on the letter H… H is for Home Birth.