GBS or Group B Strep? What does it mean?
GBS or Group B Strep is a very normal bacteria that lives in the body. It is transient flora, which means it comes and goes in cycles. Normally, we would have no idea when it decides to stop by for a visit, as you’re unlikely to experience any symptoms or negative side-effects! Fast forward to your current pregnancy, when suddenly every tiny thing seems important and you’re hearing lots about GBS.
At around 36 weeks pregnant, your midwife will ask you to ‘swab’ low in your vagina (or do this for you if needed- it’s not as weird as it sounds, promise).
This swab is then sent off to identify if, at that time, you have the transient flora that is GBS. This swab is done at 36 weeks as most women will birth their babies between 37-41 weeks, so this result will generally be as close as we can get before you’re in labour.
So, why check for this weird ninja flora?
Although GBS is not generally harmful to us, it can be extremely dangerous to baby if contracted as he or she passes through the birth canal.
Only a very small percentage of babies will contract GBS this way, but it can cause a baby to become incredibly sick. To prevent this, a lot of Australian hospitals offer intravenous antibiotics in labour to women with GBS, with the aim of protecting the baby from contracting the bacteria. After birth, if you had GBS, midwives will monitor your baby’s temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate for the first couple of days, to ensure they are well (as an extra safety precaution). If you do have GBS, don’t be worried at all. Remember, it is a normal healthy bacteria that anyone can have. Every hospital and country is different, most countries they don’t even swab to see if women have it!
Chat to your midwife or OB if you have any questions.