What is Group B Strep (GBS)?

So, your doctor (or midwife) just told you that on your next visit, you'll be screened for GBS.  Sounds good... 

But what the heck is GBS?

Group B Strep is a type of bacteria that can live on/in anyone.  Globally, approximately 10-30% of pregnant women are colonized (or carry) GBS.  For most healthy adults, it's no big deal and there are no symptoms.  In other words, you probably have no idea you are colonized.

However, for babies, it is a major cause of pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis.

So, here's what you need to know:

 GBS Swab

GBS Swab

  • You will be tested somewhere around 35-37 weeks of pregnancy.  The test is very simple- a swab of your vagina and rectum is taken (this can be done yourself or by your care provider).  You'll usually have your results by your next appointment.
  • You may test positive for GBS temporarily, on-and-off, or persistently.  A heavy colonization may present in your urine screen early in pregnancy.
  • CDC protocol recommends women be treated with IV antibiotics (penicillin or ampicillin) during labor.  The first dose should be administered 4 hours prior to delivery with a repeat dose every 4 hours that you're in labor.
  • Your GBS status may be a factor in deciding how long to labor at home.  Since that first dose of antibiotics is needed at least 4 hours before delivery, many care providers would like you to come in a bit earlier than later.  Be sure to visit with your doctor or midwife about this if you have any questions.

That's GBS in a nutshell.  For more information on alternative GBS treatments, join us next week for part 2 in our GBS Series.