GBS disease may be more common than you think even if you have just heard about it for the first time. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Group B Strep is the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns.
The bacteria is one of the many common bacteria that live in our digestive tracts and is not a reflection on personal hygiene or cleanliness. Group B strep is a bacteria naturally found in the digestive tract and birth canal of 1 in 4 pregnant women. These women “carry” or are “colonized” with GBS. However, GBS can come and go at any time so each pregnancy can be different.
It is now the standard of care in the USA and Canada for all pregnant women to be tested for GBS at 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you do or did test postive, don’t panic but please learn more. Although your care provider will likely tell you GBS disease is rare, it does happen and you need to be proactive to ensure the best outcome.
Prolonged labor with baby exposed to GBS in the birth canal increases the chance of the baby becoming infected. Laboring for several hours after your water has broken can also increase the risk of exposure to the baby. Intervenous antibiotics should be administered to Mom 4 hours prior to giving birth or during a c-section. According to the Society for Women’s Health Research, “Infants whose mothers are group B strep carriers and do not get antibiotics have over 20 times the risk of developing disease than those who do receive treatment” but sometimes IV antibiotics aren’t enough.
Most hospitals are prepared to handle complications that arise including: infections in the blood (sepsis), the fluid and lining of the brain (meningitis), and lungs (pneumonia). A baby may have complications causing one or all of these infections. The complications can be present before or at birth or within hours, days or even months.
If you recently found out you are GBS+ (Group B Strep) please visit Group B Strep International to learn more. Know that even with preventative measures, GBS infections can still occur. Please be tested, get your questions and concerns answered by your doctor/OBGYN and be proactive.