GBS Testing and Treatment During Labor; Is it Necessary?!
Who was given antibiotics during labor because they tested Group B Strep (GBS) positive around 37 weeks gestation? You know, that awkward swab they did in your vagina and around your butt hole? Did you actually look into GBS or did you just agree because “My doctor said so”? Did you look into what harm could come from antibiotics, especially using them during labor? Blindly following your doctor’s suggestions is quite a risky choice in my natural minded opinion, especially when they are the ones who bring in revenue from your ailments and complications. Sounds like a mighty large conflict of interest for them to give you information that will actually BETTER your health. Just a thought!
I’ve been asked by many women about my take on GBS during pregnancy after reading my post regarding antibiotic eye ointment after birth. These women were looking for the, more so, natural approach regarding GBS. Does it need to be tested for? Do I need to treat it? What else could I use to treat it? I’ve taken the time and put this together to answer those questions from a holistic/natural minded stand point.
NOTE: If you’re a doctor lover who takes her doctor’s advice to heart and trusts their every word, that’s great for you, but this isn’t going to flatter your doctor’s suggestions. Doctors have lower expectations for gut health than the holistic community. They likely will not agree if they are in mainstream medicine. I will add, there are times where antibiotics may be necessary. There are specific scenarios where I might consider using antibiotics during labor, such as a delivery prior to 35 weeks due to premature rupturing of membranes (PROM). There are always risks and benefits to weigh with ANY medical procedure, medicine, or protocol. As mothers, we need to be SELF-educated, not trusting our doctor, following his lead, with our eyes closed to the topics.
For myself and the majority of the holistic community, avoiding antibiotics is a HUGE deal for gut health. Antibiotics should only be used as a last resort after all natural options have been exhausted. This is my approach as an educated free birther, (unassisted birthing) along with factual based information to better help you make a choice for your delivery.
I’m going to talk about the OTHER SIDE, that isn’t much talked about, especially by your doctor. You can take this approach even if you opt to birth in a hospital. Simply, refuse antibiotics! Again, if you feel you must use antibiotics, GO FOR IT. I won’t try to slow your roll. I’m not here to argue. With a bunch of kids, who has time for that? Take it or leave it. Whatever you do, look into the topic yourself, from an unbiased source that is NOT being provided by government funding.
What is GBS?
Group B Streptococcus is a type of bacterial colonialization that can be found around a pregnant woman’s vagina or anus. As mentioned in the Indie Birth link below, Group B strep colonisation being present on a pregnant woman’s body does NOT mean it is an infection, but can become an infection in a sick baby during birth. (This is very rare and is mentioned in detail below) Group Beta Strep is not a BAD thing, you are not “dirty” if you do opt to test and come back positive. GBS is a normal part of a person’s gut flora and normally lives in the intestinal tract of most healthy people; it becomes an issue when it infects a newborn infant. When you look into the topic you will find that many government provided sites will reword the definition to try and instill fear and make it sound scary. They do the same thing with “vaccine preventable diseases.” They try to instill fear, resulting in you opting to abide by their suggestion. If you took time to look into the topic a little deeper through evidenced/natural based sources, you will find out otherwise, like I have myself. I like to trust the sites that are sharing solely to help educate mothers, not a site that will profit from my choice made by their wording. I abide by this rule of thumb in regards to all topics I research. Medical journals, peer reviewed studies, and fellow mothers personal experiences. Be careful where you get your information from. The more time you spend researching, the easier it is to identify a reliable resource and a resource that presents conflict of interest.
What are the chances of baby being infected?
In the case Mom is positive for colonialization, the chance of baby getting infected when mother is refusing antibiotics, is 1-2%. Of that small percentage, .05% of babies delivered without mom receiving antibiotics, became ill from a GBS infection, according to a study mentioned in the Healthychild.com link below.
Why are we testing for it?
Most other 1st world countries do not even test for GBS. Women in other countries do not get their anus swabbed, and somehow, they still have little to no issue with GBS infected babies. Again, the chances are incredibly low. Crazy, right?
Colonization of the vaginal/anal areas by GBS is a poor method of predicting whether baby will develop a GBS infection, anyway. Your status changes daily. You are tested at 37 weeks, and your status can change the very next day. Say they tell you your GBS swab came back negative, so you won’t need antibiotics. When you deliver, you very well could be positive, but no one ever knows because they do not test during labor. More often than not, baby can be born from a positive mom and baby has no issue. What I’m saying is the test is bogus because your status changes constantly. This is one reason why i would decline the test if I were to seek medical professional prenatal care. It is a great way for the doctor/practice to collect money from your insurance company though. Ironically, the countries that do not perform the unnecessary GBS test, do NOT have insurance companies, they run off of a government provided health care program. Does that make you question? It should.
Why would I want to skip antibiotics for GBS?
#1 reason for me is that anytime you use an antibiotic, your gut is wiped out of all the good bacteria, leaving you vulnerable to a more powerful infection/illness or one that is antibiotic resistant. Your gut health is destroyed, essentially. Repairing an unhealthy/wiped out gut can take upward to six months to rebuild. Having an unhealthy gut can lead to a slew of issues that I want to avoid like eczema, acne, asthma, depression or emotional issues. This is not what I want to worry about after I have a baby, no thanks. I need to be more concerned about providing the needs of my newborn and family members at this time.
#2 The chance of experiencing thrush. Thrush is a fungal/yeast infection of the oral cavity in an infant or child that is marked by white patches. This also effects mom’s breasts, let’s not forget! As if the first few days of nursing aren’t hard enough, imagine having purple gentian violet all over your breasts and inside of babe’s mouth to cure this–all the while trying to establish a breastfeeding relationship. Let me also make you aware that thrush can be PAINFUL for your breasts. If this sounds great to you, then antibiotics during labor are the way to go, girlfriend. Antibiotic use drastically increases your chances of experiencing thrush. (Yes, I am aware you can use antibiotics and not get thrush, but you’re taking that chance, and I bet, your doctor isn’t making you aware of the risk.)
#3 Mothers chance of enduring a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. When antibiotics are used, they wipe out the good bacteria that would typically fight off yeast. This leaves you vulnerable to an infection during your first crucial days postpartum. Who wants to deal with that? Not me! 🙅 Babies are also susceptible to yeast infections if mom was given antibiotics during labor.
#4 As mentioned in the Indie Birth link below, even though doctors have routinely treated GBS in America with antibiotics across the board, they HAVE NOT seen a change in infant morbidity and mortality in the US, due to strep B infection. Simply put: We are not making a difference with routine testing and treating via antibiotic.
#5 When babies were found ill after mom was given antibiotics during labor, it was found that 88-91% were resistant to the antibiotics given to mom. That’s a large percentage to be resistant to an antibiotic. What if babe needs them in the future? These numbers are from a study that was preformed and is spoken about in the Indie Birth link.
#6 Also mentioned in the Indie Birth link, using antibiotics during labor is destroying the baby’s gut flora, before they even have a chance at a healthy gut. Especially if baby will be formula fed or ends up being delivered via cesarean. This is better explained in the ncbi.nlm.nih.gov link below as well as the wellness mama link.
Slightly off topic, but I will also add, that for babies born via cesarean, it is suggested that you actually swab the vagina with a piece of gauze and swab babies eyes, mouth, and face, immediately after birth. This may provide many benefits for cesarean babies in protecting their gut health. This can not happen with antibiotics during labor. This topic is mentioned in the Wellness Mama link listed below if you’d like to read more on cesarean birth and the importance of baby being subjected to mom’s vaginal bacteria. This article may also give you a good idea of how important it is to keep the bacteria and not disturb them via antibiotics.
Alternatives to antibiotics?
Some people ask about Hibiclens, a bacteria fighting antiseptic. You would dilute with water and do a vaginal rinse every 4 hours during labor. This was what I planned to use for my previous birth until I dug a little deeper. While Hibiclens does not completely destroy your gut or create a risk of enduring thrush like antibiotics do, it still wipes out all of the GOOD bacteria in the vagina that baby should be introduced to during birth. This can also leave you vulnerable to vaginal issues such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. That’s a FIRM “pass” for me ✋ Also if you look up Hibiclens on drugs.com, it specifically says, “Avoid getting this medicine in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, rectum, or vagina.” It will also may leave your genitals raw or with a rash. As if your vagina isn’t enduring enough during birth as it is. We decided against this. Indie Birth also advises against its use.
I’ve seen many women suggesting crushed garlic cloves being placed in the vagina prior to labor. Garlic is THE natural antibiotic (aside from breast milk). This is the item I would use in our home to treat any sickness we might have. You can’t go wrong with garlic. Though I have not tried it for this purpose, as I had little concern, many women use this after testing positive for GBS and SWEAR by it. There are sources that advise against it, as well. I’ve seen both takes on garlic and GBS.
If you ask most natural-minded midwives what they would suggest for a positive GBS mother, they would likely say, “It’s simple, take probiotics and birth in the water.” Water dilutes the bacteria’s presence, while still allowing the good bacteria to be present and thrive. This has been shown to decrease chances of GBS infections in infants, significantly. This is the route that I chose. My son was born in our living room, in an $18 blow up pool from Walmart. There were no signs of GBS infection while being monitored by the best doctor in town for him, his mother. Who cares more about my son’s wellbeing that I do? No doctor on the market, that’s for sure.
Focusing on gut health is the BEST way to combat GBS and be sure it will not be an issue. Those in the free birthing/holostic community strive for great gut health and do whatever is necessary to keep their gut clean. When you do this, there is almost ZERO concern for GBS infection. The gut is where GBS colonizes, so to start there, makes more sense than allowing the colonialization to grow and then treating with antibiotics. Why not control it where it originates? Though, I will admit, it is harder to prefect gut health. It takes more work and re-education for most main stream individuals. This is better explained in the Indie Birth link.
What are the necessary precautions to take if you refuse antibiotics?
•Monitoring baby after birth and being aware of what side effects to look for in your baby such as:
-Irritability or fussiness (Unless you opted to circumcise your child, in that case, EXPECT unnecessary irritability and fussiness)
-Inactivity or limpness
-Being unable to keep a healthy body temperature.
If I noticed any of these symptoms with in the first 12-24 hours, I would be cautious and handle accordingly. Typically if a baby is infected, he would be diagnosed within the first hour after birth, but infection can occur anywhere in the first 7 days of life.
•Avoid vaginal checks COMPLETLY during labor, this pushes bacteria up into the vagina. This isn’t safe whether you have antibiotics or not. Especially if you experienced PROM. There is little reason to check the state of your cervix. It doesn’t matter if your 4 cm or 8 cm. You could deliver in 2 minutes, regardless. Your cervix dilatation has nothing to do with when you will deliver. This is another topic I will go into on a different day. Just know while in labor, anyone else’s fingers, aside from the woman herself, has ZERO business inside the laboring mother’s vagina, unless you are asking for an infection to occur. This includes tools, nothing should be inserted into the vagina.
•Do not consent to artificial rupturing of membranes. Did your doctor break your water with a tool? Did they claim they absolutely had to and baby couldn’t be born in the membranes? Whelp, they lied! Babies are born “En Caul” daily! Breaking them by hand can increase risk of infections. There is no need for this, and this is not practiced during a natural birth in the unassisted community. This is also a topic I will elaborate on a different day.
As Indie Birth mentions, treating GBS with antibiotics is the “Band-Aid” approach. It’s not fixing this issue, just masking and leaving you vulnerable to experience other complications. If doctors genuinely thought this through, they would test months in advance and work with the mother to improve her gut health so that she could be negative for labor and delivery when that time came. Unfortunately, there is no revenue for them when they heal a mama’s gut holistically. They aren’t paid to do what’s best for you. Revenue over your well-being.
I know intuitively, that treating something with a “Band-Aid,” instead of fixing the initial problem is pretty neglectful. I also feel intuitively that treating something with an antibiotic, allowing it to completely wipe out your gut flora and making you and baby susceptible to other infections or issues, is asinine. Especially when it can be treated holistically, in a healthy way, without destroying gut flora, risking thrush, and possibly enduring a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
The fact that antibiotic use during labor HAS NOT created a change in infant morbidity and mortality in the US, due to strep B infection, is what closes the case for me. Studies have shown that antibiotics are not the best option for the best outcome. Since they haven’t seen improvement in using antibiotics during labor, but have questioned that the infection might start prior to birth, why aren’t they trying a different route of action? Why not try healing your gut prior to birth and see if that brings about a different result? Possibly because there is no revenue made in healing a gut naturally? There is revenue in administering antibiotics in the US though. Insurance will pay the providers for that. Again, revenue over your wellbeing.
These are my natural minded views on Group B Strep. Science has shown me there is no need to test or treat. As mothers, we all need to decide for ourselves what risk is, and what risk we are willing to take. Knowing what you already know about mainstream GBS protocol and now, what I have shared, I hope you feel empowered to make a choice that best suits your family’s needs. I also hope you look into the topic yourself. I wish I had looked into this before the birth of my first and second child.