You’ve heard of strep throat and have probably had it at least once. But have you heard of Group B Strep? Did you know that it can threaten the lives of unborn or just born babies?
July is International Group B Strep Throat Awareness Month. Whether you’re pregnant or know someone who is, here is what you need to know.
What is Group B Strep?
Group B Strep (GBS) “is a type of bacteria that is naturally found in the digestive and lower reproductive tracts of both men and women,” according to Group B Strep International. About 1 in 4 pregnant women carry this bacteria. It is not related to strep throat.
Not every baby born to a mother with GBS will become ill; the rates are 1 in 200. However, the bacteria can infect your baby during pregnancy, during birth, or set in later. GBS can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, preterm labor, or cause your water to break prematurely. Some babies get meningitis, pneumonia, or sepsis, all of which can be fatal. Some babies survive but end up blind, deaf, have mental challenges, or cerebral palsy. GBS affects about 1 in every 2,000 babies in the United States.
What You Can Do
Most women do not experience any symptoms, but some show signs similar to a yeast infection. Women are now tested for Group B Strep during each pregnancy. If you test positive, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Visit your doctor if you have any symptoms of a bladder or urinary tract infection or vaginitis/yeast infection. Call your doctor if you experience less movement in your 20th week or have an unexplained fever.
Know that you have GBS and remind all your medical team members, especially during labor. You will be put on IV antibiotics, which often include penicillin, so alert your doctor about any allergies.
Watch for GBS symptoms in your baby, including:
- High-pitched, shrill crying, moaning, whimpering, or grunting as if constipated
- Feeding poorly, refusing to eat, not waking for feedings
- Irritability, vomiting, listless, stiff, uncontrollable jerking
- Blue, gray, or pale skin, blotchy or red skin
- Fever or low temperature
Although GSB is scary and can have terrible results, knowing what to do can make all the difference in your baby’s life. You can learn more from the American Pregnancy Association and March of Dimes.