Group B Streptococcus and pregnancy

Group B Streptococcus (GBS or Strep B) is a bacterium carried by about 30 per cent of people without causing harm or symptoms. It's found in the intestine and vagina and causes no problem in most pregnancies. It can infect the baby, usually just before or during labour, leading to serious illness.

Treatment for GBS

In some circumstances, antibiotics can reduce the risk of a baby developing GBS. You should be offered antibiotics during labour if:

  • you have previously had a baby with an invasive GBS infection
  • GBS has been found in your urine in your current pregnancy
  • GBS has been found on swabs from your vagina which have been taken for another reason during this pregnancy
  • you have a high temperature during labour
  • you have an infection of the membranes around the baby (Chorioamnionitis)

Your obstetrician or midwife will assess whether you need to be given antibiotics during labour. If you need antibiotics, they will be given through a vein (intravenously).

Group B streptococcal infection in babies

Group B streptococcal infection is a life-threatening infection in babies. Most babies who are infected show symptoms within 12 hours of birth, but there are some who get it later.

The symptoms include:

  • being floppy and unresponsive
  • not feeding well
  • grunting
  • high or low temperature
  • fast or slow heart rate
  • fast or slow breathing rate
  • irritability

These symptoms may be indicative of Group B streptococcal infection or other conditions. If your baby shows any of these symptoms, contact your GP immediately.

If you cannot get hold of your GP or midwife straight away, dial 999 for an ambulance or take your baby o the nearest hospital emergency department.

Screening for GBS

In Northern Ireland routine testing for GBS in pregnancy is not currently recommended because there is insufficient evidence to support it. This position is kept under regular review.

If you are concerned about GBS, discuss it with your doctor or midwife.

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