Can pregnant women be checked for GBS colonization?

The Group B Strep Association advocates that every pregnant woman be screened for GBS. The medical community recommends routine screening for GBS at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy.

One third, or 1,200,000 pregnant women carry GBS bacteria. Knowing your culture result before you go into labor can help protect your baby's life.

The test should be performed late in pregnancy, around 35 to 37 weeks of gestation. The test involves collecting a swab or swabs from the lower vagina and rectum and culturing the sample on a special medium (LIM or selective broth medium). The test result is usually ready in 2 or 3 days; it usually costs between $15 and $35. This culture (LIM or selective broth) is considered the "Gold Standard" - it is the best GBS screening available. Unfortunately, it is not perfect and may miss a small number of women (approximately 5%) who carry GBS. Fortunately, it is accurate in detecting colonization and will not give a false positive result. Rapid screen tests are not as good at detecting the bacteria as the "Gold Standard" culture but may be beneficial in a setting where a pregnant woman had not received prenatal care.

A positive culture result means that the mother is colonized with GBS. It does not mean that she has Group B Strep disease or that her baby will become ill. Rather, a positive test means that a woman and her doctor need to plan for her labor and delivery with this test result in mind. The results of GBS cultures should be available at delivery. If they are not available, a woman should not hesitate to tell a doctor or nurse her results as soon as she arrives in Labor and Delivery.

If you are pregnant, ask your healthcare professional about testing for GBS. If the test is not offered, you should request it. Ask to be cultured for GBS during pregnancy, discuss treatment plans with your doctor, and tell your baby's doctor, pediatrician, or newborn nursery nurse about your culture result. By doing these things you can help prevent a GBS infection.

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