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Each day, U.S. healthcare providers obtain a vaginal culture for Group B Strep (aka Streptococcus) from pregnant women in a routine manner, yet there is nothing “routine” about the way this simple test can miraculously save your baby’s life.

Group B Strep (or GBS) is bacteria found in the intestines, rectum and vagina in 15 to 40 percent of pregnant women. Although it can cause a urinary tract infection and occasionally meningitis and an infection of the lining in the uterus (aka endometritis); most women are not aware that they are GBS carriers because it usually causes no symptoms.

GBS is the leading cause of a severe illness known as sepsis in newborns and up to 50 percent of newborns can die before the 6th day of life. The good news is that since the late 1980’s, OB healthcare providers have been testing pregnant women between 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy which has reduced the death rate of newborns significantly. When a woman has a positive GBS culture, she is treated with antibiotics while she’s in labor. The reason she is not treated before the onset of labor is that the infection is passed on to the baby as it passes through the birth canal. If we prescribed antibiotics before birth, the infection would return by the time the woman is in labor.

Every pregnant woman should be tested for GBS AND know the results of the test. Ideally, the hospital should have a copy of your records, especially if your provider and hospital have electronic medical records. What happens if you don’t know your GBS result and go into labor? The hospital should be able to do a test that provides instant results. You should also be treated with antibiotics if you have the following risk factors:

  1. Have ruptured membranes (broke your water) for greater than 18 hours
  2. Are in premature labor with ruptured membranes
  3. Had a GBS urinary tract infection during your present pregnancy
  4. Had a positive GBS test during a previous pregnancy
  5. Have a temperature of 100°F while in labor

If the pathology report of your baby’s placenta reports a diagnosis of chorioamnionitis, which is an infection of the membranes, your baby should receive antibiotic treatment before it leaves the hospital. Knowing whether or not you have GBS could literally, save your baby’s life.

Are you able to recognize potential red flags that could hurt your pregnancy? If not, then please pick up a copy of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy.