The Group B Strep test or GBS is a Q-Tip swab to the vagina and rectum at 36 weeks. If it is positive, you will need to get antibiotics during labor. This is not considered an infection and about 20-30% of people have this bacteria at any given time.
Group B strep (GBS) is a bacteria that can be present in about 20-30% of women at the time of delivery. It is not considered to be an infection and it will not harm the mother. This is not acquired from the partner of the pregnant women. There are many bacteria present in the world around us. These bacteria can come and go on the skin of people and are usually not even noticed. GBS is one of those bacteria. Women who test positive for Group B Strep do not have to worry about how they got it or how to get rid of it. It comes and goes and is part of normal life. It does not mean that the woman is dirty, lacks hygiene, is promiscuous, or has a partner that gave her this bacteria. The only reason we test is because this bacteria can cause illness in the newborn.
The screening is typically done at 35-36 weeks and is a simple Q-Tip swab to the vagina and rectum. It is done a month before the due date because the infection is transitory, it comes and goes. Since it comes and goes, testing too early may not reflect the true state at delivery. On the other hand, if the testing is done too late, labor may start before the information can be obtained.
Women that are GBS positive will need IV antibiotics during labor. The idea is to get the antibiotics in the baby’s system prior to delivery so it does not pick up the bacteria on the way out. This method reduces the baby’s chance of getting sick by about 80%.
Women often ask why we don’t treat as soon as we find out, why wait until they are in labor. Treating with antibiotics prior to labor may not eradicate the GBS and worse, may cause the bacteria to gain resistance to the antibiotic. Remember, the antibiotics are not given to get rid of the GBS from the mom, they are used to keep the baby from picking it up during delivery.