Group B Strep Test

The Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria live in the intestines, vagina, or rectum of about 25% of all women. 

There is no harm to carrying GBS for most women. But a mother who has it can pass GBS to her baby during delivery, where it can cause harm and even death. If a pregnant woman gets tested and the result turns out to be positive, she can get medication during birth to reduce the risk of any possible harm to the baby. 

How high is the risk of infection?
One in four healthy women carry the Group B Strep bacteria. A pregnant woman who tests positive for Group B Strep and gets antibiotics during labor has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby who will develop Group B strep bacteria disease. A woman who carries the bacteria but is not treated has a much higher chance of 1 in 200 of passing the bacteria to her baby during birth as the fetus passes through the vaginal canal. 

How to Test for GBS
Doctors will advise a pregnant woman to test for GBS using a vaginal strep B screening test. This test is usually done between week 32 and 37. The test involves a swab of both the vagina and the rectum. Test results are usually available within 24 to 48 hours.

Prevention
This is done by giving antibiotics during labor to women who test positive for group B strep bacteria. Even though not every baby born to a mother who tests positive for GBS will become ill, it’s advisable to take antibiotics to greatly reduce the chances of your baby developing early-onset group B strep infection. 

How serious is GBS?
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that, globally, there will be around 150,000 stillbirths and infant deaths out of around 400,000 GBS cases every year. 

Sign and Symptom of GBS
Pregnant women usually don’t feel any symptoms. They are usually perfectly healthy. Symptoms among infants can be divided into 2 forms: 

  1. Early-onset symptoms: Symptoms that  usually develop within the first 24 hours after birth may include:
  • Fever
  • Difficulty feeding 
  • Lethargy
  • Sepsis (infection of the blood)
  • Pneumonia (infection in the lung) 
  • Meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain)
  • Gastrointestinal and kidney problems
  • Heart and blood pressure instability
  1. Late-onset symptoms: Disease develops within a week to a few months after birth, usually within the first month. Signs and symptoms may include:
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Fever 
  • Difficulty feeding 
  • Lethargy 
  • Irritability 
  • Sepsis (infection of the blood)
  • Pneumonia (infection in the lung) 
  • Meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain)

If you observe any of those symptoms in your newborn, consult your doctor or hospital immediately, especially if you have not been tested or treated against GBS.

Sources:

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