Four Facts about Group B Strep
1. Not all newborns exposed to GBS become infected.
One in four pregnant women carry Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep or GBS) in their digestive tract and birth canal, but not all newborns exposed to GBS are infected. Many Moms wonder why. Why are some babies just fine while others suffer from potentially deadly complications at the hands of the infection? Dr. Carol J. Baker, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston explains that there are many potential answers to this question, but the main reason seems to be that some women have developed a natural immunity to GBS. “Your baby doesn’t get tetanus if you had the vaccine because your protection goes through the placenta to keep the baby well until he or she starts getting vaccinated,” she explains. “This analogy explains what happens with GBS. We don’t know which women are protected, but some have developed immunity naturally and they pass that along to the baby.”
2. Although the bacteria is usually harmless to Moms, it can cause deadly infections in babies.
Although the naturally occurring bacteria is usually harmless to the mother, it is the
most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). GBS can cause sepsis, pneumonia or even meningitis. It can also cause babies to be stillborn, miscarried or so sick they die after birth.
3. Women who test positive for GBS usually have no symptoms.
A woman who tests positive for GBS usually does not have any symptoms, thus the importance of routine testing. “The good news is, GBS disease is highly preventable,” explains Marti Perhach, executive director, CEO and co-founder of Group B Strep International. She lost her baby girl to GBS in 1998. “If the mom is tested between weeks 35 and 37, as recommended by CDC, and found to be positive, she should be given IV antibiotics for GBS during labor and delivery. However, my daughter, Rose, was stillborn fullterm because GBS had already infected her amniotic fluid and lungs before I could get my IV antibiotics.”
4. Group B Strep is different than strep throat and does not only affect pregnant women.
GBS is not strep throat, which is caused by group A strep, and it can affect
people of all ages, especially those with compromised immune systems.