Group B streptococcus (strep) is a type of bacteria. It can be found in the digestive tract, urinary tract, and genital area of adults. GBS infection usually does not cause problems in healthy women before pregnancy. But it can cause serious illness for a newborn baby. It may cause sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis, or seizures.
About 1 in 4 pregnant women have GBS in their rectum or vagina. During pregnancy, the mother can pass GBS to the baby. A baby can get it from the mother's genital tract during birth.
Newborn babies with group B strep usually have signs in the first 24 hours after birth. These signs may include:
Babies who get group B strep a week or so after birth may have signs such as:
Pregnant women may have group B strep without symptoms. When they have symptoms, these may include:
Most newborns with group B strep infection have signs in the first few hours after birth. Your baby's healthcare provider will test your baby’s body fluids, such as blood or spinal fluid.
Newborn babies who are ill with group B strep infection may need care in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). They are usually given IV antibiotics. Your baby may need other treatments if the infection is severe or if he or she has meningitis or pneumonia.
In some pregnant women, GBS infection may cause chorioamnionitis. This is infection of the amniotic fluid, sac, and placenta. It can also cause a postpartum infection (endometritis). Urinary tract infections caused by GBS can lead to preterm labor and birth. Pregnant women with GBS are more likely to need a cesarean delivery. They are also more likely to have heavy bleeding after delivery.
Group B strep is the most common cause of serious infections in newborns. GBS infection can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, or sepsis. Meningitis is more common in a baby who has a GBS infection happen a week to several months after birth.
All pregnant women should be tested for group B strep as a part of routine prenatal care. In late pregnancy, your healthcare provider can test for GBS by taking a swab of your vagina and rectum during a pelvic exam. He or she can also test your urine for GBS. The swab or urine is sent to a lab to grow the bacteria. Tests are usually done between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. The results may take a few days. A woman who has GBS may test positive at certain times and not at others.
If you test positive for GBS during pregnancy, you will get intravenous (IV) antibiotics during labor. This lowers the risk that your baby will get the infection. Penicillin is the most common antibiotic given. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any medicine allergies.
If you have not been diagnosed with GBS, you may be given antibiotics before labor and birth if you have certain risk factors. These include:
Some babies still get GBS even with testing and treatment. Research is ongoing to make vaccines to prevent GBS infection.
Most newborns with GBS have signs before they go home from the hospital. But some babies do not show signs until later. These may include:
If your baby has any of these symptoms, call your child's healthcare provider right away.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: