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Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) - What is it for

What is Group B Streptococcus (GBS)?

GBS is a type of bacterium (bug) which can be found in the vagina and rectum. About one in five women carry this bacterium. GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease and in most cases, women carrying GBS will have no symptoms. However, GBS can occasionally cause serious infection in newborn babies. Very rarely, infection can also occur during pregnancy.

How is GBS detected?

GBS can be detected via a swab test or urine test. In KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), all pregnant women who are planned for a vaginal delivery will be offered a screening test (a swab test) for GBS between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy.

How can GBS affect my baby?

Babies can be exposed to GBS during labour or around birth. The vast majority of babies (98 to 99%) suffer no ill effects. However, one to two percent of these babies may develop serious infections and may even die. Those who survive may develop long-term disabilities.

Which babies are at higher risk of developing GBS infection?

Babies with the following are at higher risk:

  • Premature babies (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • GBS infection in an older sibling
  • Fever in the mother during labour
  • Prolonged rupture of membranes especially if more than 18 hours have passed between waters breaking and the baby being born

What can be done to reduce the risk to my baby?

  • If you are tested positive for GBS during pregnancy or have had a previous baby with GBS infection, you will be offered antibiotics during labour
  • If you have had a urine infection due to GBS during pregnancy, it should be treated promptly, and antibiotics should also be given during labour even if the urine infection has cleared
  • If your waters break after 37 weeks of pregnancy and you are known to carry GBS, you will be offered induction of labour straight away. This is to reduce the time that your baby is exposed to GBS before birth.
  • If your labo