Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a common bacterium that is present in the vagina and intestines of about 25% of all women.
GBS is NOT sexually transmitted and women who have GBS are ASYMPTOMATIC, that is they have no symptoms.
The conversation about how to screen for and potentially treat Group B Streptococcus in pregnancy has changed and continues to be a contentious topic. Most doctors and hospitals continue to recommend a routine vaginal swab be obtained at 36 weeks of pregnancy. With a view to treat women identified as having GBS with intravenous antibiotics in labour (usually Penicillin, unless there is a known allergy). Because the antibiotics cross the placenta to your baby it theoretically reduces the risk of the baby becoming very unwell from GBS sepsis. Without antibiotic treatment for GBS in labour, 1 in 200 baby’s will develop a severe infection (that is 199 will NOT).
Alternatively, we can clinically screen for risk factors of GBS in labour. This includes offering IV antibiotic treatment to women who labour prematurely (before 37wks), have a high fever in labour, prolonged rupture of membranes (waters broken for greater than 18-24hrs) or have a multiple pregnancy. Both antenatal screening and intrapartum screening (in labour) offer similar outcomes for your baby. Maternal antibiotic treatment for GBS reduces the number of baby’s that are given antibiotics directly.
It is important to note that many healthy babies are born vaginally to mothers with GBS.
If you are a known carer of GBS or your pregnancy identifies with one of the above risk factors, your Midwives will observe your baby’s temperature, alertness, heart rate, feeding and ease of breathing after birth. This is easily done in a non-obtrusive and relaxed manner in your own room. If there are any concerns or your baby is displaying signs of compromise your Obstetrician or a Paediatrician will be contacted.
Other circumstances where screening for GBS might be considered include a maternal request for vaginal seeding (prior to c/s) or simply upon your own request.