Hearing the word “strep” brings back childhood memories of throat swabs and tongue depressors, but for pregnant women, it’s a little different.
Group B strep, or group B Streptococcus is a bacteria that lives in many people’s gastrointestinal and genital tracts (CDC). In most cases, the bacteria are harmless and do not make people feel sick. When the bacteria do cause a GBS disease, it often shows up in adults as:
- Bacteremia and sepsis
- Meningitis (rare)
- Bone and joint infections
What About Group B Strep & Pregnant Women?
When a woman with group B strep gives birth, her newborn has a one in 200 chance of developing GBS disease. In an infant, this can be bacteremia/sepsis, pneumonia, or meningitis. The best way to prevent group B strep from spreading is to test pregnant women late in their pregnancy (36-37 weeks pregnant). This test is a quick and sterile swab of the vagina and rectum.
If a woman tests positive for group B strep, she is given an antibiotic while she’s in labor to protect the baby from infection. This is given during labor and not before because the bacteria can grow back quickly. The mother receives a mix of penicillin and ampicillin through her IV at that time. When a woman receives this treatment, the chances of her newborn contracting a GBS disease drop to one in 4,000.
Is There a Vaccine?
There is no vaccine to prevent or cure group B strep. Additionally, oral medications, medications taken before labor, and birth canal washes are not effective ways to treat the bacteria.
The SCCAA Community Actions Pathway HUB is an available resource for pregnant and new mothers in need of support, education, and community services. For more information on group B strep and pregnancy, visit https://www.cdc.gov/groupbstrep/about/prevention.html.