Group B Streptococcus should not be confused with bacteria that cause strep throat. It is a bacteria most commonly found in the vagina, rectum or urinary bladder of women. These infections are usually mild and easily treated with antibiotics. However, in pregnant women it becomes a serious condition because GBS bacteria may be passed to the baby and sometimes leads to a fatal outcome.
GBS bacterial infection happens when bacteria reaches woman's bladder, kidneys or uterus. It most commonly causes symptoms like inflammation and pain. Woman may be positive to this bacteria and yet do not feel any noticeable signs or symptoms. Approximately 15 - 40% of all pregnant women have these bacteria within their bodies. Between 40 - 70% of them pass the bacteria on their babies. Despite of the large numbers, only 1-2% of babies actually develop a GBS infection. Affected babies may have mild or severe problems affecting their blood, brain, lungs, and spinal cord.
Testing for GBS
A test is performed by inserting a Q-tip into a woman's vagina and rectum. The Q-tip with sample is placed into solution that indicates if there are bacteria in it.
There are two acceptable options for testing. First option doctor may choose is to routinely test all the pregnant women 35th and 37th week of pregnancy and use antibiotics to treat the positive women when labor starts. A second option doctor may choose is to treat only those mothers who are at higher threat of passing the bacteria to the child.
In cases where test results are not available at delivery or if woman is not tested at the time of her 35th - 37th week of pregnancy, it is of vital importance to treat her with antibiotics during the birth process. Sometimes, the doctor may do the urine test and, if positive, treat a woman with antibiotics when she goes into labor.
Two Types of GBS Infections in Newborns
The most common type of infection in newborns is an early-onset disease. Babies are usually being infected during their pass through the birth canal. The first symptoms will show in seven days. This kind of disease will cause infections on lungs, brain, spinal cord or blood and it may be extremely serious.
The second type is known as late-onset disease. The first signs show after seven days from birth. Part of the babies becomes infected during the birth while the other part becomes infected in contact with positive mother. The most common problem this type of infections cause is meningitis – infection of membranes that surround brain and spinal cord.
Treatment with antibiotics is available for infected babies; however, those infected with the early-onset disease are more likely to pass away.