The Group B Strep Test and Its Role in Labor

IV during labor, Group B Strep Test, GBS

One of the numerous tests and procedures to deal with during pregnancy is the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) test. This is a routine part of prenatal care and July is International GBS awareness month. So, in this blog post, we will shed light on what to expect regarding your GBS test and the results. 

What is Group B Strep?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria commonly found in the digestive tract, rectum, and vagina of many healthy adults. For some pregnant women, GBS can be present without causing any harm or noticeable symptoms. However, if you are a carrier of GBS during labor and delivery, there is a small risk of passing it on to your baby, which can potentially lead to complications. In this case if you are not treated with antibiotics during labor, there is a 1-2% chance that your baby will develop early GBS disease, a serious illness. 

How is the GBS Test Done?

The Group B Strep test is a simple procedure of collecting a sample to check for the presence of GBS bacteria. The test is quick and usually painless. Your care provider will perform the test during a prenatal appointment, usually between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. They will use a cotton swab to gently collect samples from your vagina and rectum. They place the swab in a sterile container and send it to a lab for analysis. The procedure is generally well-tolerated and causes minimal discomfort.

Understanding the Results:

Once the lab analyzes the samples, they will provide you with the test results, which fall into one of two categories:

  • Positive Result: This means that GBS bacteria were detected in your sample. In this case, your care provider will discuss treatment options with you. They may recommend administering intravenous antibiotics during labor to minimize the risk of passing GBS to your baby.
  • Negative Result: No GBS bacteria were detected in your sample. While this is reassuring, it does not guarantee that GBS won’t develop later or eliminate the possibility of other infections. During labor, your care provider will continue to monitor you and your baby closely for any signs of infection.

What to Expect During Labor:

If you test positive for GBS or if your GBS status is unknown during labor, your doctor or midwife will take certain steps to protect your baby. They will likely recommend giving antibiotics through an intravenous (IV) line during labor. These antibiotics aim to prevent the passing of GBS bacteria to your baby and reduce the risk of infection.

While antibiotics given during labor help prevent GBS-related complications, they may have a short-term impact on you and your baby’s microbiome. Antibiotics can temporarily disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in your baby’s gut. As a result, there might be a  need to give probiotics to your baby after birth. Discuss with your care provider and pediatrician whether this would be appropriate for your baby’s specific situation. 

Also, it is worth noting that breastfeeding your baby can lessen the negative effects of the antibiotic. Breast milk contains a wide range of beneficial bacteria, antibodies and immune-boosting factors, which can help restore and maintain a healthy microbiome for your baby. 

Making Informed Decisions: 

When facing decisions regarding GBS testing and antibiotics during labor, we recommend having open and honest conversations with your care providers about the benefits and risks of this intervention. Each family’s situation is unique, and there are pros and cons to every decision. With solid information and access to resources, you can make the decision that is best for you and your baby.

This article provides more research and details on the evidence of Group B Strep in Pregnancy.

Remember that the presence of GBS doesn’t mean that you or your baby will develop an infection. With the appropriate medical care, the majority of babies born to GBS-positive mothers remain healthy.

In conclusion, the Group B Strep test is a standard part of prenatal care that helps identify the presence of GBS bacteria in pregnancy. By detecting GBS before labor, your doctor or midwife can take steps to safeguard you and your baby. Having this knowledge can empower you to make informed decisions.

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading