Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a bacteria which is found in the gastrointestinal and genital tract of 10-30% of women. It is usually harmless in non-pregnant women, but it can cause problems for pregnant women and newborn infants. For a pregnant woman, carrying GBS usually causes no problems, but it can lead to urinary tract infection. More serious infections are very rare but, if they do occur, can lead to premature delivery.
- If a woman has GBS at the time of vaginal delivery, there is a 40-70% chance of the baby contracting GBS.
- If the baby does pick up GBS, there is a 1-2 percent chance of a severe infection – which may be life threatening.
Giving antibiotics through an intravenous drip during labour has been shown to markedly reduce the rate at which babies contract GBS at vaginal delivery.
The five reasons antibiotics are given during labour to prevent early-onset GBS disease (EOGBSD) for the baby are:
1. Premature labour (labour before 37 weeks)
2. Prolonged rupture of membranes (>18 hours)
3. Maternal fever (> 38degC)
4. Positive GBS culture on swab or urine test during this pregnancy
5. The mother having had a previous infant affected by EOGBSD
I would recommend screening for GBS at 36 weeks of pregnancy. This involves a swab being taken from the lower vagina (you can collect this yourself).
- If the result is negative, no IV antibiotics are given in the absence of other risk factors.
- If the result is positive, IV antibiotics during labour would be recommended.
Generally, observation of the baby is all that is required if at least two doses of antibiotics are given prior to baby being delivered but a paediatric doctor will discuss follow-up in detail with you. If there wasn’t time for two doses to be given, then the baby may require antibiotics for a short period of time.
The above information doesn’t take the place of a medical consultation so please seek further advice if you have further concerns.