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Health Information For Parents
Group B Streptococcus (group B strep, GBS) is a type of
often found in the urinary tract, digestive system, and reproductive tracts. The bacteria come and go from our bodies, so most people who have it don’t know that they do. GBS usually doesn’t cause health problems.
Health problems from GBS are not common. But it can cause illness in some people, such as the elderly and those with some medical conditions. GBS can cause infections in such areas of the body as the blood, lungs, skin, or bones.
About 1 out of every 4 women have GBS. In pregnant women, GBS can cause infection of the urinary tract, placenta, womb, and amniotic fluid.
Even if they haven’t had any symptoms of infection, pregnant women can pass the infection to their babies during labor and delivery.
When women with GBS are treated with antibiotics during labor, most of their babies do not have any problems. But some babies can become very sick from GBS. Premature babies are more likely to be infected with GBS than full-term babies because their bodies and immune systems are less developed.
The two types of GBS disease in babies are:
Newborns and infants with GBS disease might show these signs:
Babies with GBS disease can develop serious problems, such as:
Pregnant women are routinely tested for GBS late in the pregnancy, usually between weeks 35 and 37. The test is simple, inexpensive, and painless. Called a culture, it involves using a large cotton swab to collect samples from the vagina and rectum. These samples are tested in a lab to check for GBS. The results are usually available in 1 to 3 days.
If a test finds GBS, the woman is said to be “GBS positive.” This means only that she has the bacteria in her body — not that she or her baby will become sick from it.
GBS infection in babies is diagnosed by testing a sample of blood or spinal fluid. But not all babies born to GBS-positive mothers need testing. Most healthy babies are simply watched to see if they have signs of infection.
Doctors will test a pregnant woman to see if she has GBS. If she does, she will get
(IV) antibiotics during labor to kill the bacteria. Doctors usually use penicillin, but can give other medicines if a woman is allergic to it.
It’s best for a woman to get antibiotics for at least 4 hours before delivery. This simple step greatly helps to prevent the spread of GBS to the baby.
Doctors also might give antibiotics during labor to a pregnant woman if she:
Giving antibiotics during labor helps to prevent early-onset GBS disease only. The cause of late-onset disease isn’t known, so no method has yet been found to prevent it. Researchers are working to develop a vaccine to prevent GBS infection.
Babies who get GBS disease are treated with antibiotics. These are started as soon as possible to help prevent problems. These babies also may need other treatments, like breathing help and IV fluids.
Because GBS comes and goes from the body, a woman should have GBS testing during each pregnancy. Women who are GBS-positive and get antibiotics at the right time during labor do well, and most don’t pass the infection to their babies.
If you are GBS-positive and begin to go into labor, go to the hospital rather than laboring at home. By getting IV antibiotics for at least 4 hours before delivery, you can help protect your baby against early-onset GBS disease.
Advice and information for expectant and new parents.
The sooner in pregnancy good careÂ begins, the better for theÂ health of both moms and their babies. Here’s what to expect.
Sepsis is a serious infection usually caused when bacteria make toxins that cause the immune system to attack the body’s own organs and tissues.
Our week-by-week illustrated pregnancy calendar is a detailed guide to all the changes taking place in your baby – and in you!
Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease.
During your pregnancy, you’ll probably get advice from everyone. But staying healthy depends on you – read about the many ways to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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