What Are the Treatments for Group B Strep in Pregnant Woman?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) or Group B strep, is a type of bacteria found in 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women, says the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). GBS can be passed to the baby during labor and delivery. The result is often harmless when the bacteria is identified in the mother during pregnancy. The importance of identifying a pregnant woman as GBS positive is to be sure she receives proper treatment to minimize the risk to her baby during delivery.

Testing

The American Pregnancy Association explains that routine prenatal care includes a swab of the vagina and rectal area between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy. This swab can help identify the presence of the bacteria in the digestive tract of the pregnant woman. It is possible for the bacteria to disappear and reappear throughout pregnancy. A woman who has previously tested positive for GBS or tests positive during the routine swab should be treated as if she is infected during labor.

Antibiotics

GBS is actually a naturally occurring bacteria found in the human body. It does not usually have adverse health effects in a pregnant woman. The use of antibiotics in a pregnant woman who has GBS serves the purpose of temporarily fighting off the bacteria to reduce the chances of passing the infection on to the baby during delivery. The ACOG points out that antibiotic use may help reduce the level of bacteria present during birth. Oral antibiotics may be used for several days or weeks prior to the expected delivery of the baby, but there is the risk that the bacteria will return to high levels as soon as the treatment is discontinued. This treatment may be repeated for the first few days or weeks after delivery to minimize the risk of transmitting the bacteria to the baby at this point, says the ACOG.

A more effective method of treating GBS is intravenous (IV) antibiotic delivery. During labor, when a woman has been admitted to the birthing facility, she is likely to receive an IV of continual antibiotics until the baby has arrived. This IV treatment is especially helpful when the woman’s “water” has broken. When her water breaks, it is the amniotic sac surrounding the baby. When this sac breaks, the GBS can make its way to the baby and cause infection.

Other Considerations

When a woman’s water breaks before she arrives at the hospital, she will need to receive an IV of antibiotics right away. The risks to the baby increase when more than 24 hours have passed since the water has broken and the baby has not arrived. Regardless of whether the woman has GBS or any other infection, the baby is more susceptible to having an infection at birth in this situation. The mother will still receive antibiotics during this time to help minimize the risk, but it is likely that the baby will receive antibiotics at birth to help fight off any potential infection it may have contracted.

About this Author

Sarah Irene has written stacks of research articles dating back to 2000, has consulted in a number of settings, and is an able resource for a vast range of topics. She has been a psychology instructor since 2006 and has had her work published by ParentDish. She holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology.