According to the American Pregnancy Association, Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterial infection that a woman can pass on to her baby. Group B strep is bacteria commonly found in the body. It should not, however, be confused with the group strep A, the bacteria responsible for strep throat. Most healthy adults carry the bacteria with no symptoms. Newborns, the elderly and persons with suppressed immune systems are at risk for serious complications.
Early-Onset Group B Strep
After birth, most GBS infections are present within the first week of life. This is referred to as early-onset.
Symptoms of GBS in a newborn:
- Breathing difficulties
Blood infections (sepsis), pneumonia (lung infection) and meningitis (brain infection) are the most common complications.
Late-Onset Group B Strep
GBS infections that occur several months after birth are referred to as late-onset. GBS can cause long term damage and even death.
Group B Strep Prevention
GBS can be prevented. Routine prenatal testing is available and offered at approx 36-37 weeks. The screening for GBS is simple. A swab sample of both the vagina and rectum are sent to a lab for analysis. Testing positive for GBS is not that common, but if a woman does test positive, it lets her and her doctor prepare for her labor and delivery.
C-sections should not be performed to help prevent GBS exposure. Most women are instructed to under go IV Penicillin therapy during labor. If a woman has an allergy to penicillin, another antibiotic can be used. Antibiotic therapy greatly reduces GBS infections in newborns.
Group B Strep and Homebirth
Many women are told that a GBS positive result would keep them from their plans of giving birth at home. Home birth is still an option with a GBS positive result. Many women who give birth at home employ the assistance of a midwife. Many midwives are experienced with home IV therapy. Another option for women choosing home birth is the possibility of going to the hospital for IV therapy and then returning home to continue your labor. Some women weigh the benefits and the risks and decline IV therapy all together, especially if they are not high risk for GBS complications.
Passing GBS on to your child with complications is rare. Certain situations lace women in a higher risk category. Premature delivery, premature rupture of membranes with no start in labor and fever during labor all increase the chances of GBS complications.
Every option comes with some risks. It is up to the woman and her individual circumstance to weigh the benefits and the risks of each option when making her choices.