Group B Strep Awareness: Group B Strep International · Centers For Disease Control (CDC) · #StartTheGBSconversation · Donate
Group B Streptococcus (group B strep, GBS) are bacteria that come and go naturally in the body. Most of the time the bacteria are not harmful, but they can cause serious illness in people of all ages.
Group B strep disease is a common cause of severe infection in newborns. While GBS disease can be deadly, there are steps pregnant women can take to help protect their babies.
The two best ways to prevent group B strep (GBS) disease during the first week of a newborn’s life are: testing pregnant women for GBS bacteria; and
giving antibiotics during labor to women at increased risk.
It is recommend women get tested for GBS bacteria when they are 36 through 37 weeks pregnant. The test is simple and does not hurt. Doctors use a sterile swab (“Q-tip”) to collect a sample from the vagina and the rectum. They send the sample to a laboratory for testing. Women who test positive for GBS are not sick, however, they are at increased risk for passing the bacteria to their babies during birth.
A woman may test positive for the bacteria at some times and not others. That is why doctors test women late in their pregnancy, close to the time of delivery.
Doctors give antibiotics to women who are at increased risk of having a baby who will develop GBS disease. Doctors cannot give antibiotics before labor begins because the bacteria can grow back quickly. The antibiotics help protect babies from infection, but only if given during labor.