It is generally estimated that between 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women may be infected with Group B Streptococcal bacteria, also known as “Group B Strep”. Typically, colonization with the Group B Strep bacteria occurs in the vaginal or rectal areas.
Because of the significant maternal and fetal risks associated with Group B Strep infections, in 2002, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued detailed guidelines for the diagnosis and management of pregnant women with Group B Streptococcal infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, all pregnant women should be screened for vaginal and rectal Group B Strep at 35 to 37 weeks gestation.
If a pregnant woman tests positive for Group B Strep, it is recommended that antibiotics be given during labor or upon rupture of membranes.
Furthermore, women who have previously given birth to an infant with Group B Strep are recommended to receive antibiotics during labor in their subsequent pregnancies.
In those cases where a Group B Strep culture has not been performed prior to the initiation of labor, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the administration of antibiotics to all patients who exhibit certain risk factors, including gestational age less than 37 weeks, rupture of membranes lasting 18 hours or more or an elevated temperature.
It is further recommended that any pregnant patient who is experiencing preterm labor should be routinely evaluated for Group B Strep infections.
The failure to diagnose and treat Group B Streptococcal infection can have a devastating effect on the well being of both mother and baby.
It has long been recognized that Group B Streptococcal infections can cause pneumonia, meningitis and even death in untreated newborns. In many cases, newborns with undiagnosed or untreated Group B Streptococcal infections sustain devastating neurologic injuries which can result in cerebral palsy and permanent brain damage.
Because of the grave risks associated with Group B Streptococcal infections, safe and careful obstetricians will closely follow the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in screening and promptly treating their patients who are at risk for Group B Streptococcal infections.
Additionally, the babies of any patients suspected of having Group B Streptococcal Disease will be routinely administered antibiotics upon delivery.