Group B Strep Diagnosis
Did you know that one in four pregnant people have Group B Strep (GBS)? During weeks 35-38, you will be tested for GBS with a swab or a urine sample. This is done to find out if you currently are carrying the bacteria.
GBS has a bad rep, and understandably so, but there are a few really important things that you should know about to keep you and your baby safe.
How Did I Get Group B Strep?
Pregnancy is full of playing the blame game. You didn’t “do this” to yourself or your baby. GBS is a really common bacteria that most healthy people would have no idea that they even had. Your body just takes care of it and gets rid of it on its own time usually. You can be positive one week and your body could have fought it off by the next – each person is different.
GBS is not something that you get because you are unclean. It’s also not a sexually transmitted disease. But, the birth process is a way in which a baby can become GBS positive.
Why Is It A Problem For My Baby If I Have GBS?
There has been a lot of research done into the effects and possible outcomes for babies and the evidence is overwhelmingly clear. GBS can cause some pretty serious health issues for your baby. Here are some of the more common medical issues:
Babies in-utero are sterile – meaning they do not have any type of bacteria (good or bad) living on them in the womb. This is because they are safely growing in the amniotic fluid. During the birth process, contact with the normal micro-biome of the mother begins the process of the baby’s developing immune system. This is typically a really great thing that helps babies have their first protective immunities to the outside world. Vaginal deliveries tend to “seed” (passing on of the bacteria in the vaginal tract) the flora similar to what is found in the digestive tract. However, C-Sections will have more of the characteristics of the skin. Your time with Skin-To-Skin contact and breastfeeding will give your baby lots of protection. That way, they start their immune systems on the right track.
What Can Happen To My Baby If They Are Infected With GBS?
Not meant to scare you, but GBS can be really harmful. This is exactly why there have been treatments and screening developed!
Some of the issues with GBS in a newborn can be:
- Sepsis: an infection in the bloodstream
- Pneumonia: a lung infection that causes breathing issues (GBS is commonly found in the respiratory tract)
- Meningitis: An infection in the brain that can cause permanent damage or loss of life
This document from Group B Strep International has more information on signs and symptoms to watch for in your newborn.
When I’m Treated For GBS, What Happens to My Baby?
Treatment for GBS usually consists of multiple doses of antibiotics once your water breaks. Antibiotic treatment is highly effective and the current standard for treating GBS.
Typically, once your water breaks you will receive a dose of IV antibiotics every 4 hours until your baby is born. Your baby will be at a lower risk of contracting GBS and will likely be monitored more closely. Once your water breaks and you are GBS positive, your care providers should do minimal cervical checks and avoid any unnecessary exams during the labour and birth process. Also, your care providers should be cautious in offering stretch and sweeps as this can push the GBS bacteria higher into your cervical canal.
What Do I Need To Know When I Am GBS Positive?
First: This is not your fault and there is likely nothing you could have done to change this.
Second: Check in with your care provider about what they recommend. Know the signs and symptoms of early labour and why it is important to call your care provider immediately.
Third: The antibiotics you will receive usually get rid of the GBS bacteria, but they can also interfere with your normal microbiome. That means you will be at a higher risk of a yeast infection by having these antibiotics. Yeast is not a bacteria and normal levels of yeast are kept in check by healthy bacteria in your vaginal tract. Keep an eye out for any itching and extra discharge postpartum.
Fourth: As intimidating as it can be to have another thing to worry about during pregnancy, this is a common thing that happens with many people and you are not alone. Sometimes talking it out with a friend who has been in the same boat, a therapist, or other moms in a prenatal class can be a great resource to help you feel more confident with it all.
Fifth: Working with a naturopathic doctor with GBS protocols is one possible way to help reduce the risk of transmission of GBS, though you likely will not be re-tested.
Group B Strep International is an organization committed to promoting awareness and prevention of newborn GBS. They have some incredible resources and in-depth information on GBS transmission. Though based in the US, most of their info is relevant to Canadians as well.
You will probably hear the term “Group B Strep” around the office. Unfortunately, it can be a pretty big deal. Want more info on other common concerns in pregnancy and what to do about them?
Check out my new Troubleshooting The Trimesters: Your Guide To A Smoother Pregnancy!