February is recognized as International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month, raising the awareness about group B Strep infection. One in four women are carriers of this bacteria which possibly can be passed to the baby during childbirth, resulting in serious consequences for the child.
Preventing Early-Onset Group B Strep
The optimal time pregnant women should be tested for group B strep bacteria, which is located in the vagina and rectum area, is when she is 35 to 37 weeks pregnant. Two very important steps can prevent early-onset group B strep which occurs in babies younger than 1 week old.
- Testing all pregnant women for group B strep bacteria late in pregnancy (typically between 35 and 37 weeks pregnant)
- Antibiotics are administered to women through the vein during labor who tested positive for group B strep bacteria.
Preventing Late-Onset Group B Strep
Late-onset group B strep affects babies 1 week through three months of age. The recommended plan preventing early-onset disease which involves giving women who are group B strep positive antibiotics during labor, unfortunately, does not prevent late-onset disease from occurring. The rate of late-onset disease has remained about the same while early-onset has declined. At this point, a plan has not yet been identified for preventing late-onset group B strep disease from occurring.
Antibiotics During Labor
To help protect their babies from infection, pregnant women who test positive for group B strep bacteria in the current pregnancy should receive antibiotics through their vein during labor. The antibiotics used to kill some of the group B strep are dangerous to the baby during the birthing process and will help only during labor. Antibiotics cannot be taken before labor begins due to the fast growing nature of the bacteria. Typically, penicillin is used but those who are allergic to it can be given other types. Antibiotics taken by mouth are not effective and must be administered in their vein during labor.
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