Group B Strep. Are We Talking Sore Throats or Pregnancy?
What The Heck Is Group B Strep?
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria that can cause illness in people of all ages. In newborns, GBS is a major cause of meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and sepsis (infection of the blood).
Group B strep lives in the intestines and migrates down to the rectum, vagina, and urinary tract. Internationally, anywhere from 10-30% of pregnant people are “colonized” with or carry GBS in their bodies. Using a swab of the rectum and vagina, people can test positive for GBS temporarily, on-and-off, or persistently. Therefore your GBS status could change, even throughout your pregnancy!
Being colonized with GBS does not mean that someone will develop a GBS infection. Most people with GBS do not have any GBS infections or symptoms. However, GBS can cause urinary tract infections and GBS infections in the newborn , and people who have preterm births are 1.7 times more likely to be colonized with GBS during labor than people who do not have preterm births.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
At some point during your pregnancy care, you will most likely be “swabbed” for a Group B Strep Culture. This involves swabbing between the vagina and rectum and letting the culture sit for approximately 48 hours for results. This test is typically done between 35-37 weeks gestation and it is painless. Most pregnant women who are colonized with GBS have no symptoms or health effects. In a small number of women, GBS can cause infections of the uterus and urinary tract. A woman who is colonized with GBS late in her pregnancy can pass it to her baby during labor. That’s where the risks come in to play.
What Are The Risks?
Early-onset infections occur during the first week of life, generally within the first 24–48 hours after birth. These infections can occur as the baby moves through the birth canal of a woman who is colonized with GBS during labor. Only a few babies who are exposed to GBS develop an infection, However, when a baby is infected, the complications can become severe.. Certain factors, such as a pre-term birth, may increase the risk of a baby becoming infected. In addition to potential Uterine and Urinary Tract Infections in the mother, the most common problems caused by early-onset GBS infections in regards to the newborn are lung infections, blood infections, and meningitis.
What Happens If I’m Positive?
My opinion? Not much. If you are positive, your healthcare provider will generally want to administer 2 rounds of antibiotics while you are in labor. In a recent Cochrane review, researchers combined the results of these 3 studies, with a total of 500 pregnant women. They found that when women with GBS had antibiotics during labor, their infants risk of catching early GBS infection dropped by 83%. So the evidence would show that this antibiotic treatment may be wise for most women. This is something to discuss with your care provider!
Some More Group B Strep “Fast Facts” From The CDC:
In the United States, group B strep bacteria is a leading cause of meningitis and bacteremia in a newborn’s first week of life (early onset disease). Meningitis is an infection of the tissue covering the brain and bacteremia is a bloodstream infection.
About 1 in every 4 pregnant women carry group B strep bacteria in the rectum or vagina.
Newborns are at increased risk for group B strep disease if their mother tests positive for group B strep bacteria during pregnancy.
Doctors should test pregnant woman for group B strep bacteria when they are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant.
Doctors can prevent most early-onset group B strep disease in newborns by giving pregnant women antibiotics through the vein (IV) during labor.
Pregnant women should get antibiotics during labor if
They test positive for group B strep bacteria during their current pregnancy
They have group B strep bacteria in their urine anytime during their current pregnancy
They had a previous baby that developed group B strep disease
A pregnant woman who tests positive for group B strep bacteria and gets antibiotics during labor has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby who will develop group B strep disease. If she does not receive antibiotics during labor, her chance of delivering a baby who will develop group B strep disease is 1 in 200.
The antibiotics used to prevent early-onset group B strep disease in newborns only help during labor. Pregnant women cannot take them before labor, because the bacteria can grow back quickly.
Group B strep bacteria may come and go in people’s bodies without symptoms.