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Group B Strep or GBS

Pregnant woman in labor receiving antibiotics via IV at the hospital for Group B strep

Did you know that bacteria is a part of a body’s natural biome? This means that all people carry bacteria in their body. Today, we are talking about a specific form of bacteria, called Group Beta Strep (Streptococcus), that is carried by approximately 1 in 4 women. Group Beta Strep, or GBS for short, typically lives in the intestines, rectum, urinary tract, and genitals. It is not a sexually transmitted infection, is not contagious between adults, and cannot be spread through sexual activity.

In fact, outside of pregnancy, GBS is rarely harmful. Yet, as you near the end of your pregnancy you may hear your provider talk about GBS transferring from mother to baby if not treated during labor and delivery. While only 1-2% of babies born between 37 and 40 weeks to birthing people who were not treated during labor become ill from GBS*, preventing transmission is important. Thankfully, antibiotics during labor and delivery prevent transmission.

So what does this mean for your pregnancy? Great question. In the United States most pregnant women are screened for GBS during their routine prenatal visits. To test for GBS, the provider inserts a swab into the vagina and the rectum (don’t worry they don’t have to go very far in!). The swab is then sent to a lab and results are typically available a few days later.

If the swab results come back positive, the provider will recommend treating with IV (intravenous) penicillin to be given every four hours during labor to help protect the baby. In the case of an allergy, other antibiotics can be used.

If you have a planned cesarean and the amniotic sac (bag of water) is intact, youdo not need antibiotics because the infection can only spread after the bag of water breaks.

Understanding and testing for GBS is an important step to a healthy labor and birth experience. Please consult your provider if you have questions and want to ensure GBS is addressed before your baby’s birth day!

*Quick Note: Risk for transmission is higher for babies who are born preterm.

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