Health and Fitness Pregnancy

What is group B strep and what are the risks in pregnancy?

Have you heard about group B strep and wondering how you can get a test? Read on for all the details...

Group B strep is present in up to 40 percent of women, but it is something we may not even be aware of, as it is usually harmless and doesn’t present any symptoms. However, it can rarely infect a baby during labour and cause them to be very unwell, so it is worth learning more about during pregnancy to consider the risks, symptoms to look out for and treatment available. Get all the details on group B strep and how to obtain a test below…

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What is Group B Strep?

Group B Strep, or Group B Streptococcus, is a type of bacteria called streptococcal bacteria, that is very common in both men and women. It affects 20 to 40 percent of women, but most people will not realise they have it. However, it can sometimes cause issues in pregnancy and birth, as it could spread to the baby and make them very ill.

Group B Strep can rarely make babies become very ill if they are infected during birth
Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on

How can you get a group B strep test?

Group B strep is not routinely tested for or recommended by the NHS, but may be found during tests carried out for another reason, such as a urine test or vaginal swab.

If you are concerned about group B strep, it’s also possible to buy a test privately. Group B Strep Support has more information on where to order yours, along with some recommended services.

What are the risks of group B strep in pregnancy?

If you have group B strep while you’re pregnant your baby will usually be healthy, but there’s a small risk it could spread to them during labour and make them ill. According to the NHS, this happens in about 1 in 1,750 pregnancies. There’s also an extremely small risk you could miscarry or lose your baby.

Around 20 to 40 percent of women have group B strep
Photo by on

What happens if I have Group B Strep in pregnancy?

If tests find group B strep, or you’ve had a baby that’s been affected by it before, you may need extra care and treatment.

You may be advised to speak to your midwife about your birth plan, as they could recommend giving birth in hospital rather than opt for a home birth. You may also be advised to have antibiotics into a vein during labour, as this can significantly reduce the risk of your baby getting ill.

READ: The lowdown on gestational diabetes – diet, symptoms and test revealed

It may also be recommended that you and your baby stay in hospital for at least 12 hours after giving birth so they can be monitored, but this is not always necessary.

Group B strep in babies:

There’s a small risk that group B strep could spread to your baby and make them very ill if you have had it during pregnancy. This usually happens soon after they’re born, so they may be monitored in hospital for up to 12 hours and given antibiotics if they develop symptoms.

Symptoms of group B strep in babies:

Occasionally, symptoms of a group B strep infection can develop up to three months after birth. Call 999 or go to A&E if your baby gets any of these symptoms:

• being floppy or unresponsive

• grunting when breathing, or working hard to breath when you look at their chest or stomach

• very fast or slow breathing

• a very fast or slow heart rate

• an unusually high or low temperature

• changes in their skin colour or blotchy skin

• not feeding well or vomiting milk up

• an unusually fast or slow heart rate

They may need treatment with antibiotics in hospital immediately.

Risks of group B strep in babies:

Most babies with a group B strep infection make a full recovery if treated. However, some babies may develop serious problems like sepsis or meningitis. According to the NHS, this can cause lasting problems like hearing loss or loss of vision, and sometimes it can be fatal.

The information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or midwife if you are concerned about the health of yourself or your child.

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