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Group B Strep and Pregnancy

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Group B Strep ( Group B Streptococcus  ),also known as Streptococcus agalactiae is a common bacteria usually discovered in the vagina, rectum and urinary track of about 25% of all healthy women woman which can be transmitted from mother to infant during vaginal delivery.

The infection is often not regarded as serious in women because it can be treated immediately using antibiotics. A pregnant woman with Group B Strep can however pass it to her baby during childbirth thereby causing serious infection in the baby.

Group B strep infection can also be linked as one of the causes of certain chronic medical conditions like, cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and  obesity, in non pregnant adults.

Causes Of Group B Strep Infection

Majority of women with Group B strep experience no symptoms and consequently during birth it can be transmitted to the baby, causing a serious infection.  The infection is termed early onset disease within 1 week of development and late onset disease from 1 week to 3 months of age in newborn.

Transmission Of Group B Strep

Group B strep is transmitted from the mother to new born through direct contact  while in the uterus or during delivery. Statistics have shown that about 50% of carrier mothers would pass the bacteria to their babies during pregnancy and vaginal delivery of which about one in very 200 babies will actually develop the Group B strep infection.

Other risk factors that lead to the increase chance of transmission includes, urinary tract infection with the bacteria during pregnancy, labour or membrane rupture before 37 weeks gestation or 18 hours before delivery, fever during labour, to name a few.

Group B Strep Infection Symptoms.

There could be early or late onset of Group B strep in newborns. Early onset symptoms include;
poor feeding
fever
Heart and blood pressure instability
Gastrointestinal problems
Kidney problems
Breathing problems
Sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis
The most common symptoms in late onset ( which is rarely seen) is meningitis.

Diagnosing Group B Strep

Both in newborns and adults, isolation of group B strep bacteria from certain body fluids, like blood, urine and celebrospinal fluid will enhance a definitive diagnosis.

In the case when meningitis is suspected, a lumbar puncture or spinal tap may be required.

Treatment

If a pregnant woman tested positive to GBS, the doctor will her antibiotics through an intravenous line during labour and delivery to help protect her baby. This will greatly decrease the chances of the baby becoming ill from the Group B Strep  infection.The administration of antibiotics is important as it  decreases GBS early onset infection in newborns, although it does not prevent late-onset GBS infection

Testing for group B strep n the UK
Unfortunately, testing isn’t available to all women in the UK on the NHS. Private tests are available for around £30 and can potentially save a baby’s life. In the NHS, women may be tested for infections such as Group B Strep if their waters break before the onset of labour. If tested too late, there may not be sufficient time to get the antibiotic in to fight the infection.

For more information on GBS, visit www.gbss.org.uk

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