Group B streptococcus or GBS is a usually benign bacteria that many people carry, but can cause great harm to your newborn baby. You may not even know you have it unless you specifically get tested for it. If it spreads to your baby, he or she can die quickly if their risk of infection are not reduced. Here is more information about GBS, its symptoms, and how to keep your baby healthy.
Symptoms of GBS in Adults
GBS is often present in the rectum and vagina, but if you have it, you'll likely experience almost no noticeable symptoms. The bacteria can mask itself as a bladder or vaginal infection and still go undetected unless you are tested. In serious cases, this bacteria can even enter the womb and cause premature birth or stillbirth.
Risks and Complications of GBS in Newborns
Besides causing problems in the womb, the bacteria can spread to the child through the birth canal. You may be at high risk of GBS if your water breaks early. Early-onset infections usually appear within a day of birth and include lethargy and trouble breathing, digestive, and heart problems. Late-onset, which happen after the first week, have similar complications and includes pale skin, fever, and irritability and may be caused by outside factors.
Testing for GBS
Testing for GBS is usually done between the 35th and 37th weeks of pregnancy. You can also get tested early in your pregnancy and, if you test positive, you will not need to be tested again. If you've had signs of infection during your pregnancy, such as a bladder infection, then you may be considered at especially high risk. Just because you test positive doesn't mean that you will pass it on to your child.
Treating and Preventing GBS
There is no vaccine or preventative treatment for GBS. However, if you test positive, you will likely receive antibiotics on your delivery day to reduce the chance of spreading the infection. The antibiotics will be delivered intravenously as it is more effective and quicker acting than oral medications. Your baby will be tested after birth and possibly treated with antibiotics until the test results come back. Breastfeeding your baby will help boost his or her immune system against the bacteria as well.
Fortunately, GBS doesn't affect the majority of pregnant women, so your chances of having it and your newborn getting it is fairly low. However, because of its potential to cause death or permanent disability, all women need to be tested for the bacteria as a precaution and treated if necessary. If your OB-GYN has not mentioned this important test to you yet, then make sure you bring it up on your next visit.