Group Beta Strep (long name – Group B Streptococcus) is a bacteria that can live inside your perineal area (aka, your vagina/rectum/urethra). It’s a common, normal bacteria that live in about 25% of women!
We all have normal strands of good bacteria that live inside of our bodies, and Group Beta Step is just another one of those strands for some people! It’s NOT a sexually transmitted disease.
What does Group Beta Strep (GBS) have to do with pregnancy?
Group Beta Strep bacteria are not harmful to you at all, but, the bacteria can be passed from you to your baby during labour and lead to infection in the first week of life (early-onset infection). This can be harmful to your baby if you test positive for it.
When the baby passes through your birth canal, he/she is covered in fluids/bacteria etc, and if you are Group Beta Strep positive, one of these Group Beta Strep bacteria may be included.
Group Beta Strep can be harmful to the baby because the baby can contract either meningitis or become septic (get a blood infection) from this bacteria.
Group Beta Strep Symptoms
Testing for Group Beta Strep
Your healthcare provider will test you at about 35-37 weeks gestation. Tests done earlier in your pregnancy aren’t a good guide to your condition at birth because the bacteria can come and go. The test involves taking a swab of the inside of the vagina. Your doctor or midwife will do this, or you may be able to do it yourself.
If you test positive, you’ll need IV antibiotics during labour to help rid the bacteria from your body, to help protect the baby. The standard safeguard is that you’ll need IV antibiotics 4 hours before you deliver, this gives the IV medication enough time to kill the bacteria before the baby is born.
Don’t feel guilty about a positive test. You did not get it from anything you did. GBS is found in the human body, most commonly the intestinal and genital tracts. In healthy individuals, it typically does not cause illness.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), A pregnant woman who tests positive for GBS bacteria and gets antibiotics during labour has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby who will develop GBS disease. If she does not receive antibiotics during labour and is a carrier of the Croup Beta bacteria, her chance of delivering a baby who will develop a Group Beta Strep related disease is 1 in 200.
Okay, but what if I don’t make it to the hospital in time for my IV?
If for some reason you do not make it to the hospital to get your IV antibiotics in a timely manner, it’s OKAY!
In most hospitals, what will happen is they will want to just watch the baby in the hospital for any symptoms for at least 48 hours, and they MAY want to draw blood from your baby to see if the baby’s blood counts indicate any signs of infection.
With that said, do take into consideration your timing of arriving at the hospital/birth centre if you are GBS positive (unless of course your labour goes so quickly and you can’t control it!)
Do I really have to be connected to an IV the whole time?
No! IV infusions are only 30 mins, so you can just get the antibiotics, and then if you wish to be disconnected from the tubing, that’s totally fine!
Group B Strep and Cesarean Birth
Women who have a cesarean birth do not generally need to be given antibiotics for GBS during delivery if their labour has not started and the amniotic sac has not ruptured (their water has not broken).
With that said, it’s advisable to still be tested for GBS because, even with the best planning in the world, labour may happen before a cesarean birth.
Other things to consider
- GBS is found in the human body, most commonly the intestinal and genital tracts. In healthy individuals, it typically does not cause illness.
- GBS is not a sexually transmitted infection, is not transmitted through sharing food or drinks, and you don’t get it through surface transmission.
- GBS is not passed through breastfeeding, so carriers can safely breastfeed their babies.
- GBS is a different bacteria than the one that causes strep throat (group A strep).
- In adults with advanced age and/or chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, GBS can infect other parts of the body (such as the lungs, brain, or blood) and make a person very sick. This is called GBS disease.3
- It is unknown (aside from during childbirth) how GBS spreads from person to person.
- The bacteria is not always present and detectable in the body and may come and go. You may test positive in one pregnancy and negative in another.
- You cannot give GBS to your partner or your other children.
So there we have it and we hope that clears some stuff up!!
Remember, this article is not intended to stress you out our scare you 😊 but it’s important you are informed. Pregnancy will be a new thing for many of you so we share the above information in the spirit of making sure you are as prepared as possible.
Were you tested for Group B Strep? What were your experiences?
Let us know in our comments.