Group B Strep

By Sally J. Hall

What every pregnant woman should know about Group B Strep

What is Group B Strep?

Now you’re pregnant, you may have heard friends or the media talking about Group B Strep and its dangers to unborn babies; this term is short for Group B streptococcus, also known as GBS, which is a bacteria that can be present in our bodies at any time. Around one in five pregnant mummies-to-be in the UK has GBS in their vagina or digestive system.

What are the risks of Group B Strep to my unborn baby?

In rare cases, your baby might be born early, you might have a miscarriage or your baby might be stillborn.

What are the risks once my baby is born?

For most women, their baby can be born with no problems at all but in rare cases, the baby is exposed to the bacteria during the birth and becomes infected.

GBS infections may include blood poisoning (sepsis), pneumonia or even meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain.

What could make my baby more at risk?

If your baby is born early – before 37 weeks of pregnancy – they are more at risk; if you had a previous baby which had GBS, you are also more at risk. Other risks include your baby being born more than 18 hours after your waters broke and if you suffered from a high temperature during labour.

How can I tell if my baby has been infected?

If your baby does gets an infection, prompt action is needed, as babies can become very ill quite quickly. Symptoms include:

  • A raised temperature – or a very low one
  • Not feeding and being uninterested in milk or food
  • They are more listless, grumpy, floppy or unresponsive than normal
  • They make strange sounds such as grunting
  • Their hear and breathing rates may be faster or slower than normal

What complications can this cause?

In the mother, an infection may result in sepsis, which is very dangerous. In the baby, this is also a very serious infection. One in 10 babies will die from GBS and many more will have further lasting complications such as cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness and learning difficulties.

How can I avoid and prevent Group B Strep?

Firstly, it’s important to understand your risk. Women in the UK are not routinely tested for GBS but you can request a test or even take one at home to find out if you are affected. Strepelle offers a home kit that you use to take two swabs, which are then tested in a laboratory. This enables you to find out what your GBS risk is. With that information, you and your health team can make plans for your baby’s birth.

If you do have the infection, you may be given antibiotics during labour and you and your baby will be closely monitored after the birth.

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