Group B Streptococcus is a bacteria that is carried by up to 30% of women. It thrives in the vaginal and rectal area, and is non symptomatic. However, if the bacteria is transmitted to the baby during birth, it can cause health problems. For this reason, pregnant women are generally tested at around 35 weeks of pregnancy, and treated during pregnancy or birth to keep the bacteria from passing to the newborn, where it can cause sepsis, meningitis, or pneumonia.
As I learned from personal experience, some women can be GBS negative in one pregnancy, and GBS positive in another, so it is important to get tested each time you have a child.
Testing for GBS can be done either by urinalysis or a vaginal or rectal swab. The swab is often administered around 35 weeks, and is a painless process. Your doctor or midwife will swab your vaginal area with a large cotton swab, and then send the results in for testing. If you were Group B Strep positive in a previous pregnancy, your doctor may not bother with this test, however, and may just plan to give you antibiotics during birth. The same is true if GBS is found in your urine early in pregnancy, as was the case with my second pregnancy.
I had no previous issues with Strep during my first pregnancy, but had GBS develop quite early in my second. The bacteria were found during a standard urine culture, and the doctors were able to begin treatment immediately .The bacteria were highly colonized, and did not respond well to treatment. I had several treatments with antibiotics, only to find that after each treatment the bacteria were still present. It took three doses of antibiotics to lower the colonization to acceptable levels. However, I experienced no ill effects or symptoms throughout the process. If GBS is found during pregnancy, IV antibiotics are often administered during birth.
The only case in which antibiotics are generally not administered is when a caesarean section is planned. The danger with GBS is only present if the baby actually passes through the birth canal, so if you will be having a C-Section, the risk to the infant is minimal to non existent. Since both my children were caesarean births, I was able to give birth without IV antibiotics. However, if you plan a vaginal birth, your doctor will most likely recommend the antibiotics.
While GBS is not dangerous to the mother, it can be extremely risky for the infant. For this reason, it is essential that you follow all your doctors recommendations with regard to GBS. The bacteria can cause deadly diseases in infants who are exposed. GBS is a risky disease that is easily managed and treated, with little to no inconvenience to the mother. With a simple test and antibiotic treatments, you can ensure your baby's safety.