How to Know If You Have Group B Streptococcus

Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterial infection that commonly affects pregnant women. It is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI). The bacteria lives in most healthy women and does not carry any symptoms. However, if not checked, your baby may be infected before or during delivery. Let’s get more into what it is and how to treat it.

GBS Infection

GBS bacteria can be found in the rectum or vagina of a pregnant woman. The term ‘colonized’ describes any woman found with the infection. It has no harmful effects on the mother. However, when it appears at 35 weeks gestation, it means it is active and can pass from the mother to her little one during delivery. 

In some cases, the baby may be infected while still in the womb. Only a few exposed to the bacteria become infected. It can lead to a miscarriage, stillbirth, or death after birth. GBS causes infection in the brain, blood and lungs. 

Testing for GBS

Your doctors may check for GBS between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. The process involves undergoing a urine test or a rectal or vaginal swab test. Women with risk factors such as preterm labour before 37 weeks need IV antibiotics treatment. This will help keep any possible infection at bay while establishing their GBS status. 

You can check for GBS earlier if you have symptoms that include vaginal irritation and unusual discharge. Seek medical advice if you notice any “vaginitis” symptoms. 

How Can GBS Affect Your Baby?

There are a number of babies who encounter GBS during labour. Though most of them will not be affected, there is a possibility that your baby will develop it. It may lead to serious illness or even death. 

Some of the infections that GBS can cause in babies are:-

  • Sepsis in newborns (blood infection)
  • Pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Meningitis (brain infection)

Other issues include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Kidney and gastrointestinal issues
  • Instability in blood and heart pressure

The good news is that your baby will recover fully with prompt treatment. There are babies that at a higher risk. There are ways to reduce the risk of your baby getting infected.

Signs of Early Onset GBS in Babies

  • High or low temperature
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Very sleepy or unresponsive
  • Skin colour changes
  • Unusually floppy
  • Not breathing at all

Consult your doctor immediately if you notice any of the above signs. 

Risk Factors

  • Preterm birth
  • A previously infected baby
  • Signs of infection or high temperature during labour
  • Your water broke 24 hours before the birth of your baby
  • Your GBS test came out positive

How to Treat GBS and Prevent Infections

These treatments are mostly for those already diagnosed with the bacterial infection. However, if you have preterm labour before 37 weeks it is recommended to have an antibiotic drip during labour.

  • Treat the GBS with antibiotics if caused through a urine infection
  • Get antibiotics through a drip when in labour
  • You should have induced labour if your water breaks 


#Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

#Content intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from your doctor.

Last reviewed January 2019

Sources: americanpregnancy, todaysparent,

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