Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Group B Streptococcus

If you are expecting, it is important to be aware of certain diseases that could potentially affect the health of you and your baby. A relatively common antibacterial infection during pregnancy is Group B Streptococcus (GBS). Here is what you should know about GBS:

What is Group B Streptococcus?

GBS is a type of bacteria that lives in the human body in the gastrointestinal and genital tracts. Usually, it does not cause any harm, and most women carrying GBS do not have any symptoms. However, sometimes GBS invades the body and causes an infection known as the GBS disease. This poses a risk to your baby during your delivery.

GBS is found in about 1 out of 4 pregnant women. Past research has found that pregnant women who received antibiotics after testing positive for GBS during labour have only a 1 in 4000 chance of delivering an infant who develops GBS disease. On the contrary, if she did not receive antibiotics, she will have a 1 in 200 chance of delivering an infant who develops GBS disease.

Potential Harm to Baby

If you have GBS, your baby is most likely to be born safely most of the time. However, there are a few potential harms of the GBS disease for your baby. For instance, GBS can cause potentially life-threatening infections, such as pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis. This risk increases if you have had a baby with GBS infection, your baby is born prematurely, if your amniotic sac breaks 24 hours before you deliver your baby, or if you have a high temperature in labour.

If you are planning to do a vaginal delivery, and if you are tested positive for GBS in your vagina, urine or bowel during your pregnancy, or if you have had a baby with GBS, your doctor would offer antibiotics through an intravenous (IV) line during your labour to decrease the risk of your baby being infected with GBS. However, do note that the antibiotics taken during labour can only prevent early-onset of GBS disease in the baby, but not a late-onset disease. After your delivery, your doctor will also monitor your newborn baby’s health closely, to detect any signs of the GBS infection.

If you are planning for a Caesarean delivery, your labour has not started and your amniotic sac is not ruptured, you would not need antibiotics for GBS during labour. Otherwise, your doctor will have to monitor your baby closely for GBS infection signs and treat them with antibiotics, if needed.

In most cases, most babies will make full recovery with timely treatment, although the GBS infection might make them feel unwell. It is highly recommended and important that you notify your doctors if you tested positive for GBS so that your doctors will be prepared.

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