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Patient education: Group B streptococcal disease and pregnancy (The Basics)

Patient education: Group B streptococcal disease and pregnancy (The Basics)

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 people and their babies, a GBS infection can be serious.

This article is about GBS infection in pregnant people and their babies.

What are the symptoms of GBS infection during pregnancy? — 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 intra-amniotic 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? — 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 everyone have a urine culture early in pregnancy. This will show if there is GBS in the urine. Those who test positive for GBS can take antibiotics to treat the bacteria.

Expert groups also recommend that pregnant people have GBS cultures done on samples from the vagina and rectum between about 36 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. This helps the doctor or nurse know who should get antibiotics for GBS during labor.

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? — 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 of GBS involves getting an antibiotic. This can be with a pill or through a thin tube that goes into a vein, called an "IV." Pregnant people who had a culture from the urine, vagina, or rectum that was positive for GBS are treated with an antibiotic through an IV during labor. This protects both the mother and baby from having problems caused by GBS.

If you are treated for GBS during labor, you and the baby's health care team should watch the baby for signs of infection after they are 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, they 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.

More on this topic

Patient education: Avoiding infections in pregnancy (The Basics)
Patient education: Urinary tract infections in adults (The Basics)

Patient education: Group B streptococcus and pregnancy (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Vaccination during pregnancy (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Urinary tract infections in adolescents and adults (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 02, 2023.
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