Group B Strep Infection
Most pregnancies come to term with the birth of a healthy, normal baby and a quick recovery from the birth for the mother. There are times, however, when things don't go quite as hoped and either danger to the baby or the mother is a risk. To help the doctor determine such things, there are medical tests which can be administered to determine the health and well-being of the baby in utero and the mother's health as well.
Third Trimester Revelations
During the third trimester, a screening test that is performed checks for the presence of vaginal and rectal group B strep colonization. Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria are found in approximately 15 to 40 percent of all women. GBS appears in the lower genital tract and usually is not problematic before pregnancy, but it can cause serious illness in the mother during pregnancy. Group B Streptococcus may cause a severe infection of the placental tissues called chorioamnionitis. It can also cause urinary tract infection which can be a precursor to preterm labor and birth.
What Can Happen To A Baby When The Mother Has GBS?
The most common and devastating effect of GBS is the life-threatening infections newborns contract from the bacteria. Pneumonia and meningitis may infect the baby either during pregnancy or from the mother's genital tract during labor and delivery. Gastrointestinal and kidney problems, breathing problems and instability in the heart and blood pressure are also signs of early onset Group B Strep in infants. Not all babies born to mothers with GBS will become ill, however, and only about one in every 2,000 babies born in the US are affected by their mothers who have tested positive for the bacteria.
How The Screening Is Done
The screening for Group B Strep infection is done between the 35th and 37th weeks of pregnancy because this is the best time to determine if a woman is carrying the bacteria and will be infected during the time of her delivery. The test is simple and requires a swab of both the vagina and rectum which is then taken to a lab. A culture is analyzed for the presence of GBS and results of the test are available within 24 to 48 hours.
Some Of The Risk Indicators For GBS
A positive test means that the mother is a carrier and it does not immediately imply that the baby is infected. There are symptoms which may indicate higher risk for delivering a baby with GBS and these include labor or rupture of the membranes before 37 weeks, rupture of the membranes 18 hours or more before delivery, having a fever during labor which may indicate infection, urinary tract infection as a result of GBS during the pregnancy and having had a baby with GBS previously.
It is important to treat a mother who has high risk factors or positive cultures in order to reduce the risk of transmission of GBS to the baby. When the mother is treated with antibiotics, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of the baby developing the disease than if there is no treatment.