What Does Group B Strep Positive (GBS+) Mean?

Nov 15, 2011 by

What Does Group B Strep Positive (GBS+) Mean?

Approximately 1 in 4 women test positive for Group B Strep (GBS) in pregnancy.  So what does this mean exactly?  Group B Strep is a type of bacteria that can be present in the rectum.  While it is normal and typically harmless to be present there, if the bacteria migrates to the vagina, there are risks of the baby contracting “Group B Strep Disease” during labor.  Pregnant women are tested for Group B Strep in the initial urinalysis as well as at 35-37 weeks with a swab culture.  If the bacteria is present at either time, IV antibiotics will be administered during labor to prevent infection in the infant.  Additionally, 48 hour hospital stay is required to observe the baby for any signs of illness.   Once a woman has tested positive for GBS in pregnancy, subsequent deliveries may be managed with antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

So what are the risks to the baby?  Development of meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis are all risks to the infant if GBS is passed on during delivery.  Chances of developing one of these due to GBS Disease is 1 in 200 without antibiotics, and 1 in 4,000 with antibiotics. 

While the reduced risks associated with antibiotics and GBS are obvious (20 times less likely to contract GBS disease), it is important to realize that these measures may be extra-precautionary.  It would really be ideal to test for GBS at the time of delivery to prevent unnecessary prescription of antibiotics and prolonged hospital stay.  Reasons such as time to culture the bacteria, speedy labors and other things prevent this idea from being practical.   

I personally tested positive for GBS in my first pregnancy and was also treated with antibiotics during my second labor as a result.  Although the overall reduced risks are worth it, the 48 hour hospital stay and IV antibiotics are annoying to prevent assumed risk based on old information.  The reality that the bacteria may or may not be present at delivery 4 weeks after the swab test, or even months/years after the first pregnancy is not thorough enough for me.  I personally feel that these medical “protocols” need some work.  Antibiotics are great things when needed but it does bother me to know that most likely my babies are born to an immediate dose of antibiotics without a better confirmation of diagnosis…and I do think that they can do a timelier job of confirming presence of the bacteria.

Although this is usually not a hygiene issue, there are some things you can do to help reduce the spread of GBS to your vagina. 

  • Wash underwear in hot water / sanitary cycles
  • Use body wash vs. bar soap because bar soap can collect bacteria
  • Do not use the same loofa / washcloth on your vagina as you do your bottom.
  • Remember to wipe from front to back – this is an important practice in general.

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