Prevention of Group B Streptococcal Infections


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Prevention of Group B Streptococcal Infections: Most GBS disease in newborns can be prevented by giving certain pregnant women antibiotics through the vein during labor. Any pregnant woman who previously had a baby with GBS disease or who has a urinary tract infection caused by GBS should receive antibiotics during labor.
Pregnant women who carry GBS should be offered antibiotics at the time of labor or membrane rupture. GBS carriers at highest risk are those with any of the following conditions:

  • fever during labor
  • rupture of membranes (water breaking) 18 hours or more before delivery
  • labor or rupture of membranes before 37 weeks

Because women who carry GBS but do not develop any of these three complications have a relatively low risk of delivering an infant with GBS disease, the decision to take antibiotics during labor should balance risks and benefits. Penicillin is very effective at preventing GBS disease in the newborn and is generally safe. A GBS carrier with none of the conditions above has the following risks:

  • 1 in 200 chance of delivering a baby with GBS disease if antibiotics are not given
  • 1 in 4000 chance of delivering a baby with GBS disease if antibiotics are given
  • 1 in 10 chance, or lower, of experiencing a mild allergic reaction to penicillin (such as rash)
  • 1 in 10, 000 chance of developing a severe allergic reaction--anaphylaxis--to penicillin. Anaphylaxis requires emergency treatment and can be life-threatening.

If a prenatal culture for GBS was not done or the results are not available, physicians may give antibiotics to women with one or more of the risk conditions listed above.1

Footnotes:
1. excerpt from Group B Streptococcal Disease (GBS) General: DBMD

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