By the end of your pregnancy, you’re likely to have been poked and prodded countless times all in the name of safeguarding your baby’s health. Between weeks 35 and 37, you’ll have one more medical test to add to the list – one that checks for the presence of Group B Streptococcus.
What is it?
GBS is the name for very common bacteria often found in a woman’s vagina, rectum or bladder. Though it is generally innocuous, causing few problems and going largely undetected, GBS could pose a risk as you deliver your baby.
The risks to your baby
It should be noted that most babies exposed to GBS during delivery show no health problems, though a small percentage may experience any number of the following:
- Low body temperature
- Trouble with nursing or eating
- Trouble breathing
Babies who are diagnosed with GBS can also develop serious complications from the bacteria including meningitis and pneumonia.
What you can do
Like many bacteria, GBS can live inside our bodies without causing us any trouble. That’s why it’s so important that pregnant women and their providers take the potential for GBS seriously. Toward the end of your last trimester, your doctor or midwife will perform a simple, non-invasive and painless test that involves a quick swab over your vaginal opening and rectum. Some practices may allow you to perform the test yourself in the doctor’s office.
While there’s no way to prevent GBS, some health experts suggest a daily combination of Echinacea, vitamin C and a probiotic may help to suppress the bacteria. Talk to your doctor or midwife about proper dosing for you – and if he or she even recommends these supplements.
You’re GBS positive, now what?
First, know that having GBS says nothing about your health or cleanliness. It’s not something you caught and it’s not something you can pass on to your partner. It’s also important to note that just because your test results show you have GBS in your body doesn’t mean it’s going to harm your baby. All a positive result will show is that your doctor or midwife needs to take a few extra steps during your labor and delivery.
If you have GBS, or if you have refused testing, your medical team will administer antibiotics through an IV four hours before you deliver. This dosing significantly reduces the potential for passing GBS onto your newborn. Babies born to GBS positive moms are not routinely tested, though they will be monitored to ensure their health and safety.
The bottom line
While GBS has the potential to harm newborn babies in the first hours and weeks of life, proper testing and treatment makes this one a non-issue. Go through the testing per your doctor or midwife’s recommendations – and if you test positive this pregnancy, allow your team to follow their safety protocol.