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Childbirth: Strep Infections During Delivery

Topic Overview

Some women carry group B streptococcus bacteria in their vaginal area, and it does not cause problems. (This type of strep is different from the type that causes strep throat infection.) Without knowing it, a woman who has group B streptococcus bacteria in her vagina can pass the infection to her baby during vaginal birth. The baby can then develop an infection of the tissues covering the brain (meningitis) or an infection of the blood (sepsis).

Some babies who get severe infections caused by group B streptococcus develop brain damage, hearing loss, or blindness. Brain damage can result in cerebral palsy.

Prevention

Late in your third trimester, your doctor is likely to check you for group B streptococcus bacteria, particularly if you have any risk factors for the infection. If you test positive, if you have certain risk factors for group B strep, or if for some reason you aren't tested, you will receive antibiotics during labor. Antibiotics reduce the likelihood that you will pass the infection to your baby.

Antibiotic treatment is not needed if you're having a planned cesarean delivery that takes place before labor has started and before your water breaks.1

References

Citations

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2011). Prevention of early onset group B streptococcal disease in newborns. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 485. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 117(4): 1019–1027.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised July 23, 2012

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