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What is group B strep and why is testing pregnant women crucial?

Before a pregnant woman gives birth to a baby, she should be tested for group B strep. A woman who tests positive for the infection would need to have antibiotics during labor to prevent complications that might occur if the infection is passed to the baby.

What is group B strep?

Group B streptococcus is a bacterial infection that can be found in the rectum or vagina of approximately 25 percent of all women. Even women who are healthy can have group b strep. The issue occurs when the woman's vagina is colonized with the infection.

How is a woman tested for group B strep?

A swab of the rectum and vagina is done on pregnant women who are 35 to 37 weeks pregnant since a test that is done in the 5 weeks prior to delivery most accurately predicts the presence of the infection at the time of birth. If a woman goes into labor prior to the test being completed or before results are available, she should be treated with antibiotics until the infection is ruled out or the baby is born.

What are the risks of untreated group B stress?

A baby who contracts group B strep during birth can suffer a host of issues. These include gastrointestinal problems, kidney troubles, blood pressure instability, heart problems, meningitis, sepsis, pneumonia and breathing problems. These often manifest within hours of the birth.

Babies who contract group B strep often face more medical care than healthy babies who don't contract the infection. If a baby is stricken with group B strep because of a lack of testing or a failure to treat the mother with antibiotics, the parents might choose to seek compensation to help pay for the baby's unexpected care costs.

Source: American Pregnancy Assocation, "Group B Strep Infection: GBS," accessed June 17, 2016

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