Group B Strep

Group B Strep (Streptococcus) GBS - is a common bacterium which normally resides in a womans vagina or rectum which does not cause any complications. However, a pregnant woman may pass group B strep to the baby during labor and delivery, which in rare cases, can be harmful to the baby. Here are some frequently asked questions about group B strep and pregnancy.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

Group B Strep
Group B Strep

20-25% of all healthy women test positive for group B strep. It is a common group of bacteria that lives in female genitals or gastrointestinal tracts. In some women, the bacteria can be present on and off while in some women, it can reside persistently. In either case, there is no risk of developing a health problem.

A pregnant woman carrying group B strep can have a normal pregnancy. Most babies born to mothers with group B strep survive, as well, without any health issues. However, rarely (approximately 1 in 2000 babies) can develop an infection which can become critical if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of group B strep during pregnancy?

As group B strep is a common microbe in healthy adults, it has no significant signs of existence in a woman. In some cases, it may cause urinary tract infections. In rare cases, it can lead to intrauterine infection.

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How is GBS tested?

GBS is tested by taking a vaginal or anal swap and culturing in a laboratory. It usually takes 24-48 hours to receive the test result.

If I am not pregnant and test positive for GBS, what do I do?

If you are not pregnant, you do not have to do anything. It is normal to have group B bacteria and it will not cause an infection or any other health problems. Group B strep and pregnancy is what is usually a thing of concern.

When should I test for GBS during pregnancy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all pregnant women, irrespective of the risk level of group B strep, to undergo a GBS test between weeks 35 to 37.

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Group B strep is known to circulate within the gastrointestinal tract. Hence, a GBS test is valid for only 5 weeks. GBS is routinely performed 5 weeks before a full-term pregnancy, that is, between 35-37 weeks in order to make sure that the pregnant mother’s birth canal is free of GBS at the time of delivery.

If you had a GBS test done earlier than 35 weeks, you will be asked to do a re-test, even if the earlier test result was negative.

If I test positive for GBS, what will happen next?

·         Not every pregnant mother who carries GBS will pass it on to her baby. Only 1 in 200 babies born to mothers of GBS positive result will contract an illness. Rest of the babies will be born normally and survive healthily without complications.

·         The risk of your baby contracting group B strep increases if you have premature labor, or if water breaks before labor begins.

·         As a precaution, your doctor will advise you to take antibiotics like penicillin when labor begins or soon after water breaks, if you have tested positive for GBS earlier.

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·         Antibiotics will destroy GBS in your vagina for a while before which your baby will be delivered without getting group B strep from you. That is why taking antibiotics before your water breaks or labor begins will not have any effect.

·         Administering antibiotics reduces the chances of your baby getting GBS to 1 in 4000.

How does GBS affect a newborn?

Babies who get group B strep from the mother during vaginal delivery may face the following medical conditions:

·         If the baby develops group B strep symptoms within 12 hours after birth, called as the early onset group B strep, there is an increased risk for sepsis (blood poisoning), pneumonia (lung infection) and meningitis (an infection of the brain lining). As a result, the baby may have difficulty in breathing, fever or feeding difficulties.

·         Some babies remain healthy in the first days, but may develop symptoms within a week or a few months, referred to as the late onset group B strep. Without timely medical intervention, it can lead to critical illnesses such as cerebral palsy, deafness, and blindness.



Group B Strep Infection: GBS. American Pregnancy Association (APA).

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