What is Group B Strep (GBS)

Group B Strep (GBS) ?

GBS is a bacteria that is found in the lower intestine of about 10 – 40% of all health adults and in the vagina of approximately 12 – 15% of all Australian women.

GBS usually causes no symptoms in adults but in newborns, GBS is the most common cause of septicaemia (infection in the blood stream), meningitis (infection of the lining of the membrane surrounding the brain) and a frequent cause of newborn pneumonia.

Exposure to GBS occurs during labour once the mother’s membranes have ruptured. The bacteria travels upwards from the mother’s vagina and into the uterus. The baby becomes infected when it swallows or inhales the bacteria.

There appear to be some babies more susceptible to the GBS infection such as premature babies. This is due to the immaturity of their immune system.

Risk factors:

  • Rupture of membranes at less than 37 weeks’ gestation
  • Prolonged rupture of membranes longer than 18 hours
  • Pre-term delivery at less than 37 weeks gestation
  • Maternal fever during labour
  • History of GBS in previous pregnancies or births

I screen all pregnant women at 36 – 37 weeks gestation for GBS by taking a low rectal and vaginal swab. This is quick and painless. It involves passing a small cotton tip into the entrance to the vagina and then a second swab into the entrance of the vagina. The swabs are then sent to the pathology lab and we usually receive the results within 3- 4 days.

If the vaginal or rectal swab are positive for GBS, I administer antibiotics – usually Penicillin via an IV (via a plastic cannula in the vein) once you are in labour or after your membranes rupture. If you are allergic to Penicillin, an alternative antibiotic will be used.

If you present in labour or if your membranes rupture prior to the swab being taken or the result is not yet available, you will be treated as GBS positive to be safe.

Once you have been screened, you will be sent a letter or email from our office that notes your GBS status.

A copy of this letter will be forwarded to the Epworth Freemasons and placed into your medical file.

Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced Obstetrician and Gynaecologists with over thirty years experience in public and private practice.