What is group B streptococcal disease? — Group B streptococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria called “group B streptococcus,” or “GBS” for short. In most healthy adults, GBS is harmless. But in pregnant women and their babies, a GBS infection can be serious.
What are the symptoms of GBS infection in pregnant women? — GBS infection often causes no symptoms. When it does cause symptoms, the symptoms depend on the organs involved. Common types of GBS infection include:
●Bladder infection – The symptoms of a bladder infection include:
•Pain or a burning feeling when you urinate
•The need to urinate often
•The need to urinate suddenly or in a hurry
•Blood in the urine
●Kidney infection – The symptoms of a kidney infection can include the symptoms of a bladder infection, but they can also include fever, back pain, and nausea and vomiting.
●Amniotic infection (also called intraamniotic infection) – The symptoms of an amniotic infection include
•Tenderness in the lower part of the belly, where the uterus is found
•A fast heart rate in the mother or the fetus (unborn baby)
Is there a test for GBS infection? — Yes. Doctors can take samples of different body fluids and then check whether any GBS bacteria grow in those samples over time. This is called doing a “culture.”
Most doctors recommend that all women have a urine culture for GBS early in pregnancy. Expert groups also recommend that all pregnant women have GBS cultures done on samples from the vagina and rectum at 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy. Women who test positive for GBS can take antibiotics to treat the infection.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — See your doctor or nurse right away if you are pregnant and have any signs of infection, such as the symptoms listed above.
What problems can GBS cause to a mother or her baby? — In the mother, GBS can cause infections of the amniotic fluid or uterus, and early delivery (called preterm birth). In newborns, GBS can cause serious infections in the lungs, blood, brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, and skin and soft tissues (such as muscle or fat).
How is GBS disease treated? — Treatment for pregnant women involves getting an antibiotic into a vein (IV) during labor. This protects the mother and her baby from having problems caused by GBS.
If you are treated for GBS during labor, you and the baby’s healthcare team should watch the baby for signs of infection after he or she is born. In a baby, the signs of infection include fever or low temperature, poor feeding, trouble breathing, being irritable, and being very sleepy.
If your baby’s doctor thinks your baby has an infection, he or she might order blood tests, X-rays, or other tests. Babies who develop GBS infection are treated with antibiotics through an IV for at least 10 days.
Content adapted from UpToDate Patient Information.