Group B streptococci are present in the genital area of 20-36 % of pregnant women. These bacteria are usually harmless colonisers of the vaginal mucosa, but pregnant women can pass the infection to their infant at birth. This can result in serious infections for the baby shortly after birth or between 1 and 6 weeks later. Early-onset infections are associated with sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. Neurological damage and long-term consequences are also to be expected with this early-onset form. In late-onset infections, there is an increased risk of death, particularly for premature babies.
For this reason, the society of German gynaecologists has set out recommendations for the prevention of the so-called neonatal group B streptococcal disease.
Preventing B streptococcal infection
To begin with, your doctor should discuss your medical history with you. Did one of your children have a B streptococcus infection at birth or have you ever had a urinary tract infection caused by B streptococci? If the answer to either question is yes, a dose of antibiotics should be administered during labour. Every pregnant woman should also be screened for the presence of B streptococcus between the 35th and 38th week of pregnancy. To do this, your doctor will need to swab your vagina and rectum. The smear samples will be sent to the lab, where a bacterial culture will be performed to determine whether the bacteria is present.
If you are diagnosed with a B streptococcus infection, antibiotics should be administered during delivery to minimise the risk of infection to the child. Taking antibiotics before the birth is not recommended as B streptococci bacteria can grow back very quickly once treatment is completed. Please be sure to tell the clinic and your midwife if B streptococcus was found during prenatal screening.
In the absence of an immune response, additional follow-up tests should be conducted throughout the pregnancy. In the case of an infection, medicines (antibiotics) are available.