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Childbirth: Strep Infections During Delivery

Topic Overview

Some women carry group B streptococcus bacteria in the vagina. And for some of them, it does not cause problems. (This type of strep is not the same as the type that causes strep throat.) But a woman who has group B strep in her vagina can pass it to her baby during vaginal birth. The baby can then get an infection of the tissues that cover the brain (meningitis) or an infection of the blood (sepsis).

Some babies who get severe infections caused by group B strep have 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 strep. If you test positive, you will get antibiotics during labor. You will also get them if you have certain risk factors for group B strep. Antibiotics make you less likely to pass group B strep to your baby.

You won't need antibiotics if you're having a planned C-section that takes place before labor has started and before your water breaks.footnote 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

Current as of: February 11, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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World Health Organization
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