What is ''group B strep''?

Group B strep (or streptococcus) is a bacterium that lives quite harmlessly in various parts of the body of a percentage of women. For example, in certain communities, 5% of women carry group B strep in their vagina without there being any symptoms or harm. In pregnancy, however, it is a different matter as group B strep can cause severe fetal infection (septicaemia, meningitis and pneumonia) if the baby is born prematurely, or the membranes have been ruptured for more than a day before delivery. If you are identified as being a group B strep carrier, then most doctors will give you antibiotics while in labour, to reduce the chance and severity of an infection in the baby. Antibiotics are sometimes given to women if group B strep is picked up co-incidentally from, for example, a vaginal swab in pregnancy. This is probably not particularly useful as the strep will often come back afterwards, and may then have become resistant to those antibiotics used.
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