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Why should I be tested for group B streptococcus during pregnancy?

Dr. Margit S. Lister, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Studies show that about 20 percent of pregnant women carry the group B streptococcus (GBS) bacteria but have no symptoms. For this reason, it's recommended that all pregnant women be tested for GBS late in pregnancy, usually in the last 5 weeks of pregnancy. Testing during pregnancy is the only way to detect this common bacteria so that your doctor can plan steps to help protect your baby.

Testing is quick and painless. Your doctor will swab your vagina and rectum and send the sample to the lab. There the sample will be cultured (grown in a special substance). GBS swab test results are usually available within 48 hours. A positive test result means that GBS is present.

Dr. Brett E. Horsley, DO
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Group B strep is a bacterium that about 20 to 30 percent of moms carry and that a baby can catch on the way out and get very sick. Because of this, the recommendation is that all moms receive a group B strep culture between 35 and 37 weeks gestation. If it comes back positive, then a mom will receive antibiotics during her labor process. If it is negative, she does not need the antibiotics.

If a woman tests positive for group B strep and is not treated during labor, her baby can get very sick and even die. If a woman is pregnant—or knows anyone who is—she needs to know about group B strep (GBS), also known as baby strep. This disease is caused by group B streptococcal bacteria, which are commonly found in healthy women of all races and ethnicities. In fact, about one in four women in the United States carry these bacteria, which they can pass on to their baby during childbirth.

Being a carrier for GBS bacteria does not mean a woman has an infection. It only means she has these bacteria in her body. She would not feel these bacteria or have symptoms like a yeast infection. These bacteria are usually not harmful to a woman—only to her baby during childbirth or soon after being born.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.