5 Things to Know About Group B Strep

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As if there weren't enough to worry about as a pregnant mom, there is Group B Strep. You will also hear it called GBS or Beta Strep. This is not related to strep throat. This is considered a colonization of bacteria as opposed to an illness in pregnant women. You will need to be tested, and if you are positive, treatment with antibiotics in labor is recommended, to prevent your baby from getting an infection. What does all of this mean?

  1. Don't panic.
    While it might be frightening sounding, there is a lot to learn that will help reduce your fears and ease your mind.

  2. You're not alone.
    It is estimated that about one million women will test positive for Group B Strep in pregnancy. That is about 25% of pregnant moms every year. The truth is that having Group B Strep found in your body required testing because the vast majority of women aren't sick and don't show signs.

  3. Most women get tested routinely.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all pregnant women are screened in prenatal care between 35-37 weeks pregnant. This involves a swap of the rectum and vagina. It's nothing more than your average vaginal exam. This is then analyzed at the lab. Many women don't realize this test has even been done unless they are positive and their doctor or midwife says something to them. If you aren't sure if you have been, or will be, tested, just ask your practitioner.

  4. It's not a sexually transmitted disease.
    GBS is a normal bacteria that lives in the intestine, rectum and vagina. It doesn't typically bother the carrier. The risk here is to the baby as it is being born.

  5. There is a preventative treatment.
    If you have Group B Strep there is a treatment to help prevent your baby from contracting it. You will be given antibiotics in labor. These antibiotics will be given through an IV. About 1 in 200 babies will have a potentially life threatening infection if mom isn't treated in labor. That number drops to about 1 in 4000 if mom is treated in labor, according to the best current science. Even if you are having your baby at a birth center or at home, there are treatment options available. Ask your midwife or doctor.
    Depending on which medication is used and how long your labor is, you might receive more doses. It generally takes about 20-30 minutes for the medication to go in through the IV. At that point, you can cap off the end of your IV and have complete mobility without dragging the IV pole. The Saline Lock will stay in place and allow you to have more medications later if required or to use the venous access for other medications.

It is important to remember the don't panic recommendation. Many moms don't even know they've been tested or treated. Knowing can help you make the safe choice for your baby. More research is on going both for the best options for testing and treatment as we explore other options.


Ohlsson A, Shah VS. Intrapartum antibiotics for known maternal Group B streptococcal colonization. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007467. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007467.pub3

Prevention in Newborns. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 7, 2012. Last accessed 7/29/13: http://www.cdc.gov/groupbstrep/about/prevention.html

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