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Pregnancy Complications

Group B Strep Infection (GBS Disease)

Common Bacteria is Bad for Baby

A bacteria that is carried by many of us with no harmful effects can be very serious for your baby. Group B strep (GBS) usually lives in the GI tract but only seems to cause problems in pregnant women, the elderly, and those with a low resistance to infections such as a person with AIDS, cancer or diabetes. This is not the same strep that causes your sore throat or the "flesh-eating" disease--those are Group A strep.

There are two ways GBS can affect your baby, and both start with the babies probably getting infected during delivery. Risk is higher for babies born before 37 weeks, if there is more than 18 hours between the mom's water breaking and the birth, or if the mom has a fever. This first type is called early-onset which means your baby develops symptoms within seven days--though its usually closer to seven hours. They can develop pneumonia, infections of the blood, or an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord - meningitis. The late-onset type begins about seven days to three months after delivery, and these babies are more likely to get meningitis.

About 80 percent of the babies with GBS infections get the early-onset type, and 86 percent of these cases can be prevented by treating the mom with IV antibiotics during labor and delivery. If your doctor or midwife tests you at 26-28 weeks, remember that it has been shown it is better to test you for the bacteria in the 35-37th week of your pregnancy. Results are back in 24-48 hours. If the test is positive, you may also be prone to premature labor. Any woman who has previously delivered a baby with a GBS infection or had a urinary tract infection during her pregnancy caused by GBS should also receive the antibiotics. In this case, a little prevention goes a long ways.

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