Admittedly, I knew basically nothing about Group B Step until I as pregnant- wait, you too? Ok, good. I think this is one of those thing that catches every woman by surprise, unless you’ve worked in the medical field or had someone you know talk to you about it. Basically, Group B Strep is a colony of bacteria that lies dormant in the bodies of many mothers- often in the vagina or rectum. It won’t make mom sick, but, if passed to the infant, can be life-threatening in it’s seriousness. Thankfully, less than 1% of infants born to GBS- positive moms will contract the illness, and of those, 10% will die.
This risk is a serious one- serious enough that the medical field has built in certain safeguards. To keep GBS in check, mothers are routinely checked (by means of vaginal swabbing and culture) towards the end of their pregnancy to see whether or not they are carrying GBS- usually around 36 weeks. You can refuse the test, but there is very little risk to taking the test itself, and it’s good information to have going into your birth- for you, and for your birth team.
Once a mother tests positive for GBS, they are always considered positive, for the remainder of that pregnancy. If they are, they are then STRONGLY encouraged to be given IV antibiotics every 4 hours during labor to support the babe’s immune system and keep them from getting infected. However, many mothers, in an attempt to make the best decision for their babies in regards to meds during labor, will ‘treat’ their GBS naturally and asked to be retested- and often will end up testing negative before the birth. While your healthcare practitioner will still treat you as if you are positive, you can have the peace of mind to know that you are negative.
Here are some ways that mothers combat a positive GBS test (or prevent a positive one in the first place:
-Fermented foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi
The problem is this- what if mom, who tested positive and will therefore be considered positive no matter what, doesn’t want to have the antibiotics? There are risks to any kind of IV medication, and antibiotics come with their own slew of problems, particularly for such a tiny, fragile baby with an underdeveloped gut! If you have a retest and know that you are now not carrying GBS, you can use that as a leg up to make the decision to deny meds.
If you test positive, should you deny the antibiotics? That is a very personal decision that should be taken very seriously and talked over with your care provider. But, hopefully, you will feel equipped to discuss the illness, your options, and take preventative measures at home!