Pregnancy Problems

Group B Strep

If you've got group B strep during pregnancy, you might not even know it, but baby could be at risk for harm. We've got answers to all your questions about group B strep, including how to keep baby safe.

What is Group B strep during pregnancy?

Group B streptococcus, or Group B strep or GBS for short, is a bacteria that can live in the body without you even knowing it.

What are the signs of Group B strep during pregnancy?

You might not have any symptoms at all, or you may develop a urinary tract infection or an infection of the uterus if you have Group B strep.

Are there any tests for Group B strep during pregnancy?

Yep! The — you guessed it — Group B strep test is typically given between weeks 35 and 37 of pregnancy. The doc will take a swab of your vagina and rectum and send it to a lab to see if the bacteria is present.

How common is Group B strep during pregnancy?

Fairly common! It’s found in about 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women.

How did I get Group B strep during pregnancy?

There’s really no clear explanation. GBS is just a bacteria that can live in your body — it's not sexually transmitted.

How will my Group B strep affect my baby?

If you don’t get treated, you could pass the bacteria to baby at birth, and he could develop an infection (in his blood or lungs), meningitis or pneumonia. About 5 percent of babies infected with GBS die, so you want to be sure to follow your doc’s orders (see next page for treatments).

What’s the best way to treat Group B strep during pregnancy?

First, take a deep breath and try not to stress. If you’ve tested positive for Group B strep, you are now armed with knowledge that can protect your baby! When you go into labor, you’ll be put on an antibiotic drip (usually penicillin, unless you're allergic) that flows into your body to wipe out some of the bacteria that could be potentially harmful to baby. With the help of the antibiotics, baby should be just fine. GBS-positive women that do not receive the antibiotics, though, are 20 times more likely to pass the bacteria on to their babies.

Guidelines say you should begin receiving the antibiotics four hours prior to delivery, so make sure your hospital is aware of your condition and in possession of the antibiotics before your due date. You should also make an effort to get to the hospital in plenty of time to be put on the drip, and don’t be shy to let the nurses know that you need your antibiotics when you arrive.

What can I do to prevent Group B strep during pregnancy?

You can’t prevent the bacteria from forming in your own body, but you can prevent transmitting it to baby by taking the antibiotics your doc prescribes during labor and delivery.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have Group B strep?
 
“I tested positive [for Group B strep] and it wasn’t a big deal at all. They just ran an IV of antibiotics while I was in labor, and everyone was healthy.”

“I was Group B strep-positive with DS...it’s really the last thing you pay attention to at that point in the game. DS has been perfectly healthy from minute one of his life.”

“I tested positive with my son. The only difference in the pregnancy was that after my water broke, I had to go right into L&D to get started on antibiotics; I couldn’t wait for contractions to start at home.”

Are there any other resources for Group B strep during pregnancy?

Group B Strep Association

Plus, more from The Bump:

Group B Strep Test Basics

Who is at risk for preterm labor?

Your Guide to Prenatal Tests and Doctor Visits

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Birth. 4th ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2005.

By Erin Walters