“Congratulations, you’re having a baby!” This news can bring a lot of joy to an expectant mother and her family.
But of all the things that need to be planned and decided, the health of the mother and the baby are the most important. Getting appropriate prenatal care can lead to a healthier pregnancy.
One important screening test that should be done is for Group B streptococcus, also known as GBS. GBS is a common bacterium found in up to 20% of pregnant women, usually in their vagina or bladder. Normally, GBS is not harmful. However, this bacterium can lead to complications, including urinary tract infections, uterine infections, pneumonia and, less commonly, life-threatening infections of the blood (sepsis), brain (meningitis) and heart (endocarditis).
GBS can spread to a baby during delivery and can cause pneumonia, a blood infection or a brain infection, all of which are serious because an infant’s immune system is weaker.
July is Group B Strep Awareness Month. As an obstetrician and gynecologist, I believe it’s important to know about this bacterium because it can cause complications for mom and serious illness in a newborn.
Why do some women get GBS?
Women who develop complications from GBS have done nothing wrong. It is not due to hygiene and is not sexually transmitted. Most women are not even aware they have it because typically there are no symptoms. In order to prevent serious infections in newborns, many providers test their patient’s urine at the beginning of pregnancy. Then there is a vaginal test at 36 weeks of pregnancy, even if there are no symptoms. It may be recommended to take antibiotics prior to delivery to prevent infection if a woman tests positive.
What happens if I have GBS?
For women who have GBS, it is recommended they go to the hospital as soon as their water breaks or they are in active labor. This ensures they can get the antibiotics they need before the baby is exposed in the birth canal. In labor, there are signs that may signal an infection such as fever in the mother or changes in the baby’s heart rate. After delivery, any concerns with a newborn baby should be evaluated by a pediatrician. These can include fever, irritability, difficulty breathing and poor feeding. Issues with GBS in a newborn are largely preventable if there is proper treatment after a woman’s water breaks or during labor, especially if she has had a positive test for GBS in pregnancy.
Screenings help reduce complications
By instituting universal testing for pregnant women during their prenatal care, we have been able to largely decrease the number of babies who have gotten sick or died from GBS. It is important for pregnant women to know that they should be tested for these bacteria in every pregnancy, and to know there is treatment to help reduce the risk to them and their baby.
Pregnancy is such a sensitive and beautiful time in a woman’s life. I want everyone to feel empowered and understand what tests need to be done in pregnancy and what those tests mean so they can have the best possible outcome.
Source: Daily Republic