April 4, 2008

Group B Strep – Bacterial Infection During Pregnancy

Posted in Category : Women's Health

Group B strep infections are caused by a genus of bacteria known as Streptococcus agalactiae. GBS or Group B streptococci usually live harmlessly in different parts of the body. This peaceful existence of the bacteria in the membranes and surfaces of various organs is known as colonization or carriage. Common sites for colonization are the bowels and the vagina or cervix in women. When the GBS invades the tissues, organs or bloodstream, an infection occurs. Group B strep can cause serious infections in pregnant women and newborn infants. Though cases of group B strep infections are not that common during pregnancy, there are high risks involved to both the baby’s and the mother’s health. Because of this, all women are tested for GBS colonization as part of their prenatal care. As per the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women should be tested for vaginal strep B between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy.

GBS colonization occurs in almost 25% of healthy women. Many of these cases show no symptoms of GBS until tested. If pregnant, there are certain signs that you may test positive for GBS and are at higher risk of delivering a baby with GBS. These symptoms include:

  • Preterm labor (rupture of membranes before 37 weeks)
  • Fever during childbirth
  • Urinary tract infections during the pregnancy (caused by GBS)
  • An earlier pregnancy with GBS or newborn baby with GBS
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low blood pressure

Babies born with early onset GBS (immediately after delivery) exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Unstable blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Bluish colored skin
  • Listlessness
  • Kidney and digestive problems
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Sepsis

Children diagnosed with early onset GBS are also treated with antibiotics via an IV. There is also a rare chance that the symptoms of GBS develop a few months after delivery. Meningitis, sepsis, and fever are some of the main symptoms of late onset GBS.

If GBS has been detected during your pregnancy and you have received the required antibiotic treatment, your chances of giving birth to a baby with GBS are 1 in 4000. However this number rises dramatically to 1 in 200 if antibiotics were not administered in time.

The most effective cure for GBS infection is antibiotics. If you are pregnant, these antibiotics will be administered via IV during your delivery to prevent your newborn from becoming infected. If you have been diagnosed as a carrier of GBS prior to your delivery, the decision to take antibiotics is left to you. Antibiotics taken before the delivery are not as effective in preventing your newborn baby from being infected. There are also cases when the infection can return even after the course of antibiotics. Alternatively, there are home remedies and natural treatments that may help reduce the chances of a GBS infection during your pregnancy. Speak to your midwife or doctor before beginning any new treatment to reduce the chances of any side effects or complications.

Popular herbal remedies to treat GBS include:

  • Burdock Root: Chinese medicine uses Burdock root to purify the blood. Drinking an infusion of Burdock Root that has been steeped for two hours is believed to help pregnant women fight a GBS infection. While there is no scientific evidence to prove this, there have been cases with encouraging results.
  • Echinacea: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Echinacea helps strengthen the immune system and fight off infections. Drinking an infusion of Echinacea daily or taking it in the form of tincture during pregnancy may help cure a GBS infection.
  • Astragalus: Astragalus is a natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. A half-teaspoon of tincture a day during pregnancy may help treat a GBS infection.


  1. http://www.cdc.gov/groupbstrep/index.html