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Group B strep

What is Group B Strep (GBS)?

Group B streptococcal bacteria is a common type of bacteria often found in the vagina and rectum of healthy women of all races and ethnicities. According the Centers for Disease Control, 1 out of 4 women in the United States carry this type of bacteria. These bacteria can come and go naturally in the body.

Why is it important to get a GBS test when you're pregnant?

You need to get a group B test every time you're pregnant. It doesn't matter if you did or didn't have this type of bacteria before; each pregnancy is different.

The CDC recommends getting the group B strep test when you are 35-37 weeks pregnant. The GBS test is an easy swab of the vagina and rectum that should not hurt. There are no risks to you or your baby from a GBS test.

If you have the bacteria, you can pass it to your baby during childbirth. If you carry GBS, you will need an antibiotic during labor to keep your baby from getting sick.

What happens to babies born with GBS?

Group B strep is the most common cause of sepsis (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining around the brain). Most newborn disease happens within the first week of life. Until recent prevention efforts, hundreds of babies died from group B strep every year.

To make an appointment for GBS testing call:

What if you test negative?

If you test negative for GBS, you don't need to do anything else.

What if you test positive?

What does it mean to test positive?

It doesn't mean you have an infection, it only means you have the bacteria in your body. You will not feel sick or have any symptoms. GBS is usually not harmful to you. It doesn't mean you're not clean. Other people you live with, including other children, are not at risk of getting sick from GBS.

If the group B test shows that you carry the bacteria, your doctor or midwife will give you an antibiotic during labor.

You will get the antibiotic (usually penicillin) through an IV (in the vein). If you're allergic to penicillin, there are other antibiotics your doctor or midwife can give you.

If you think you might have a C-section or go into labor early, talk with your doctor or midwife. You can make a personal GBS plan with them.

Why can't you take antibiotics before you go into labor? Because the bacteria grow quickly, doing this will not prevent the problem.

During labor – if you've tested positive

  • If you have not had the GBS test when labor starts, tell the labor and delivery staff.
  • 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.
  • Go to the hospital and expect to get IV antibiotics during labor. The antibiotics work best if you get them for at least 4 hours before you deliver.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

For more information, visit:

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