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Have you been diagnosed with GBS during pregnancy? I know how confused I was when I heard I tested positive the first time while I was first pregnant with my daughter.
Group B what???
Group B Streptococcus.
This is something that many expecting mamas are diagnosed with every single day. If you are curious about what being diagnosed with GBS during pregnancy means for you, your baby and your birth plan, this post is for you!
What is GBS?
GBS is a bacteria which is found in the vagina and/or the lower intestine (rectum) in up to 35% of all healthy adult women. It is not an STD or STI and you didn’t do anything “wrong” to contract it.
Being GBS positive won’t really cause problems for you, but is more of a concern for your baby during pregnancy and birth. GBS disease can be dangerous.
Click here for a detailed description of GBS symptoms in baby. According to AP about, “1 out of every 200 babies born of moms who carry GBS who are not treated with antibiotics will develop signs and symptoms of GBS.
How is GBS diagnosed?
It is usually diagnosed between 35-37 weeks of pregnancy. A long “q-tip” will be gently swabbed in your rectum and vagina and it will be tested.
It’s a quick and painless procedure.Your healthcare provider can do it for you or you can do it yourself.
Does GBS hurt?
No! You won’t even know you have it until you are diagnosed.
Will my baby automatically contract GBS if I test positive?
Not at all! According to this study, “in a group of 1000 untreated women, approximately 195 will be GBS positive, 98 infants will become colonized, and 1-2 will develop early-onset group B strep.
If I test positive once, will it be that way in all my future pregnancies?
No. You can test positive today and be negative by the time you go into labor, and vice versa. GBS is transient, which means that it can come and go.
You are at an increased risk of having a baby who develops early-onset GBS disease if:
- If you test Positive for GBS during pregnancy, late in your 3rd trimester (35-37 weeks)
- If you’ve previously given birth to a baby who developed early-onset GBS disease
- GBS bacteria is found in your urine during the pregnancy
- Your waters break for more than 18 hours prior to the baby being born
- If your labor starts at or your waters break before 37 weeks
- If you develop a fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C) during labor
How does GBS during pregnancy affect my plans for a natural birth?
Let me just get this out the way real quick: Yes, you CAN have a natural birth even with GBS. And no, you won’t have to be tied to a bed.
There is no need to scrap your plans of having a natural birth just because you’ve been diagnosed with GBS during pregnancy. Having a C-section won’t change anything as your baby can still be infected.
My experience being diagnosed twice with GBS during pregnancy
I’ve had 2 natural births in a hospital setting, and both times I tested positive for GBS. But here’s the thing, I was never treated.
The first time with my daughter, there wasn’t any time for treatment as I arrived to the hospital 9cm dilated.
The 2nd time around with my son, I had no idea I was even in labor so by the time I got to the hospital, I was also already 9cm dilated.
Not only was there no time for treatment, I actually declined getting the antibiotics because my midwife educated me on the risks and benefits and therefore I was confident in my decision to do so. Both babies were/are 100% healthy.
I’m absolutely not saying that you should make the decisions I made, but I’m encouraging you to do your research and make a decision for yourself.
If I test positive for GBS but decide not to get treated, will my baby get sick?
Maybe, maybe not. No one can answer this question definitively.
If you test positive and decline treatment (whether the antibiotics at the hospital or natural treatments listed in this post further down below), there is a higher chance that your baby may get infected.
If your child starts showing signs shortly after birth, this would be considered as Early-Onset GBS disease.
Symptoms usually show up within the first couple of hours after birth, up to 1 week. Any symptoms that show up after 7 days of life are a sign of Late-Onset GBS.
Some side effects of both early and late-onset GBS include breathing problems, sepsis, and meningitis.
For more information on the symptoms of GBS disease in babies you should check out the following links:
- Early-onset GBS infection symptoms in babies
- Late-onset GBS infection symptoms in babies
- Both types of infections symptoms in babies
Treatment for GBS during labor
If you do decide to get treatment, you will have to go to the hospital/center as soon as labor starts.
Whether it’s consistent contractions or your waters break, you’ll have to go in for treatment through IV at least 4 hours prior to giving birth.
Once it is established that you are in labor, you will only be hooked to an IV for about 30 minutes (time it takes to run each dose).
After each course, you will be unhooked and can freely move around. Penicillin which is an antibiotic, is the most common form of antibiotic given to treat Group B Strep.
If you are allergic, there are other antibiotics that can be given to you.
It is important to note that alternative treatment methods should be explored as this study found that we are in a state of a major antibiotic resistance crisis.
This basically means that more and more antibiotics are actually failing to control/kill bacteria due to misuse and excessive use of antibiotics in humans and animals.
If you are having an elective C-section (but you go into labor and/or your water breaks before the scheduled date) or end up needing an emergency C-section, you will also be treated with antibiotics through IV.
Natural alternative ways to treat GBS
These alternative treatments can be started from 32 weeks of pregnancy to reverse a potential diagnosis or to prevent it. I personally would do try some of these anyway regardless of whether or not I tested positive. Remember, GBS is transient. It comes and goes and you’ll never know if you’re colonized unless you get tested!
***Note: I’ve done my research…I found anecdotal evidence showing that these methods may have worked for some people, but I haven’t found much “hardcore” scientific evidence. I don’t think it’s because these methods don’t work, but more so that more randomized trials are needed!
- Probiotics to encourage healthy gut flora (the one linked is the one I take). Also drinking kefir and kombucha, and eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt (check out this study which found that probiotic therapy has the potential to reduce GBS colonization)
- Yogurt (applied vaginally) to balance and boost bacteria
- Red raspberry leaf tea and vitamin C to strengthen your amniotic sac (bag of waters)
- Apple cider vinegar baths and drinks. You can even create a rinse (half water half ACV) and use a spray bottle to rinse your vagina everyday
- Organic garlic. Chop a clove up and put in some honey and eat it. Put it in your food and your vagina! Read about the garlic protocol for your vagina here. You can also take it in the form of capsules. I know it sounds totally gross and unappetizing but Garlic can kill GBS!
- Eating a little bit of coconut oil everyday because it’s has powerful antibacterial properties. You can also rub it in your vagina. Just make sure you wear a panty liner
Risks of antibiotics during labor
It is important to note that there are some risks associated with the IV treatment for Group B Strep.
- Allergic Reaction: Allergic reactions to penicillin range from rashes to anaphylactic shock
- Gut bacteria maturation delay: For babies born vaginally, there is a transfer of healthy bacteria and flora that occurs in the birth canal and this transfer is the foundation of your baby’s immune system.
According to a study from McMaster University, it was found that, “babies exposed to the antibiotics for GBS during labor had a delay in the maturation of their gut bacteria, known as microbiota.”
How to heal yours and baby’s gut naturally after antibiotic treatment for GBS
- Breastfeed (if you can) exclusively at least for 6 months if possible. Breast milk is optimal for the development of your baby’s immune system.
Need help and guidance? No problem! You can learn how to breastfeed, using this fantastic breastfeeding course (which you can access from home!) created by a mom of 3 who is also Certified Lactation Educator.
- Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. A healthy gut is essential for a strong immune system.
Studies have shown that probiotics can be transfered to the baby through breast milk. The one linked below is the one we currently use and it was recommended to me by my chiropractor.
- Fermented foods and drinks if you follow me on instagram then you know I enjoy kombucha from these 2 brands: Rise and GTS.
In case you’re wondering, GTS is delicious .
If you’re a beginner, I’d suggest Rise. Both are delicious but GTS kombucha has a much stronger “fermented” taste than Rise. You can also drink kefir, and eat fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.
- Omega 3 supplement like the one linked below (what we use daily) and omega 3 rich foods like chia & flax seeds, salmon, eggs, and yogurt.
I hope this post has answered all your questions and reassured you that you can still have the birth of your dreams!
Until next time,
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