The doctor told me I tested positive for Group B strep. He said that I will have to have antibiotics while I am in labor. How does this affect my baby?
A: Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria that is found in the lower intestine. Approximately 10-35 percent of all healthy adults have some GBS growth.
When it enters the vagina, it can possibly infect the baby during his descent into the birth canal. It doesn’t affect the mother, just the baby.
We have learned that if the mother receives IV antibiotic therapy four hours prior to delivery, the baby is usually just fine. If the baby is born in less than four hours since the IV antibiotic therapy was begun, the baby will need to have blood work done. That is to make sure the baby did not get infected.
Group B strep should not be confused with the bacteria Group A strep, which causes sore throats.
It is also very important to know that GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease. It simply is spreading of a common bacteria from the lower intestine to other parts of the body.
It is recommended that mothers are tested for GBS between the 35th and 37th week of a pregnancy. It is felt that is close enough to delivery time to have a good idea that the mother is growing GBS.
If a mother has tested positive in a previous pregnancy, she is considered to be high risk to be positive for successive pregnancies.
If the amniotic membranes rupture more than 18 hours before delivery, the mother is again high risk for being positive for GBS.
If a mother goes into labor before the 37th week of a pregnancy, has a fever higher than 100.4 during labor, is black or is younger than 20, she is considered to be high risk for GBS.
While the amniotic sac is intact the baby is in no danger; it protects the baby from infections.
Some of the symptoms of a baby being infected are problems with temperature regulation, grunting, fever, seizures, breathing problems, unusual changes in behavior, stiffness or extreme limpness.
During the 1980s when women stayed in the hospital for less than 24 hours after delivery, there were enough cases of babies dying from GBS infections that insurance companies changed their rules.
This was one of the motivating factors that changed insurance policies to pay for up to 48 hours for a vaginal delivery and 96 hours for a cesarean delivery.
Most women want to go home within the 24 hours. Sometimes we have a hard time convincing them to stay.
Everything that we do for our mothers and babies is because we want them to be safe and healthy.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Health. Contact her at email@example.com.