Protect Your Baby from Group B Strep!
All pregnant women should get a group B strep test when they are 35–37 weeks pregnant. Babies can get very sick and even die if their mothers pass group B strep bacteria to them during childbirth.
If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor or midwife about getting a group B strep (GBS) test when you are 35–37 weeks pregnant. The test will let you know if you are carrying group B streptococcal bacteria, which you can pass to your baby during childbirth. If you have GBS, your baby can get very sick and even die if you are not tested and treated.
Preventing Group B Strep
Each time you are pregnant, you need to be tested for GBS. It doesn't matter if you did or did not have this type of bacteria before; each pregnancy is different. The test is an easy swab of the vagina and rectum that should not hurt. There are no risks to you or your baby by being tested for GBS.
If the test shows that you are carrying the bacteria, you will be given medicine during labor to stop GBS from spreading to your baby. The antibiotic (usually penicillin) is given to you through an IV (in the vein) during childbirth. If you are allergic to penicillin, there are other antibiotics to help treat you during labor. If you think you might have a C-section or go into labor early (prematurely), talk with your doctor or midwife about making a personal GBS plan.
Taking antibiotics before you go into labor will not protect your baby against GBS. The bacteria can grow back so fast that taking the medicine before you begin labor does not prevent the bacteria from spreading to your baby during childbirth.
What You Can Do Before Labor
Talk with your doctor or midwife about getting a GBS test when you are 35–37 weeks pregnant.
- If you test negative for GBS, you do not need to do anything more.
- If you test positive for GBS, talk with your doctor or midwife about a plan for labor.
- You will get IV antibiotics (medicine through the vein) during labor. If you are allergic to penicillin or other antibiotics, make sure to tell your doctor or midwife about any reactions you have had.
Continue your regular check-ups, and always call your doctor or midwife if you have any problems.
When Your Water Breaks or When You Go into Labor
If you have not had the GBS test when labor starts, remind the staff that you do not know your GBS status.
If you tested positive for GBS:
- Go to the hospital and expect to get IV antibiotics (medicine through the vein) during labor. The antibiotics work best if you get them for at least 4 hours before you deliver.
- Tell the labor and delivery staff at the hospital that you tested positive for GBS.
- Tell the labor and delivery staff if you are allergic to penicillin.
What is GBS?
It is a common type of bacteria. GBS bacteria are often found in the vagina and rectum of healthy women of all races and ethnicities. In fact, about 1 out of 4 women in the United States carry this type of bacteria. These bacteria can come and go naturally in the body.
What Does It Mean to "Test Positive" for GBS?
If you test positive, that does not mean you have an infection. It only means you have these bacteria in your body. You would not feel sick or have any symptoms. GBS are usually not harmful to you, but can be to your newborn because these bacteria can be passed on to babies during childbirth. Other people in the house, including other children, are not at risk of getting sick from GBS. Testing positive for GBS does not mean that you are not clean. It also does not mean that you have a sexually transmitted disease. The bacteria are not spread from food, sex, water, or anything that you might have come into contact with.