The mom in this photo tested positive with group B strep* infection (GBS+) in her final trimester and received I.V. antibiotics during labor. Group b strep are a pathogenic bacterium that sporadically live in the rectum, intestines, urinary tract, and genital area of all pregnant and non-pregnant healthy people.
These bacteria don’t typically cause problems when kept in check by good flora (a.k.a. probiotics) that naturally live in your body, but when allowed to overpopulate they can cause a mild to serious infection. Especially during pregnancy when more than 25% of women are diagnosed with this infection. This is a concern as a GBS infection can be harmful to both mom and her baby.
Signs of a GBS Infection
- Vaginal Burning and irritation
- Unusual vaginal discharge (often mistaken for yeast infection and treated incorrectly)
- “Vaginitis” symptoms
- Bladder infections (with or without symptoms)
- Previous miscarriages
- Positive GBS test result
Lots of women do not have any of the above symptoms. This is why routine GBS screenings have become a part of your prenatal care. Ask your care provider to test you earlier in pregnancy. Not just in the 3rd trimester at 35-37 weeks.
Women who test GBS+in their last trimester of pregnancy are said to be ‘colonized. This means that the GBS now dominate the good flora. They have established themselves in the mom’s birth canal. This can pose a real problem for baby who will soon travel down that canal to be born. The GBS can also travel from mom’s vagina to her uterus during labor. These are two ways that a mom’s GBS infection can be passed on to her baby during a vaginal delivery.
GBS+ is the #1 cause of life threatening infections for newborn
Not every baby born to a mom with GBS+ will contract GBS+. More often than not it’s the babies born to mom’s with large amounts of GBS in her system that are at greatest risk. Statistics show that 1 in 2,000 babies become infected, yet the outcome can be severe enough that most physicians test for it in routine prenatal care.
A newborn can become ill if GBS enters his bloodstream with symptoms being: shock, pneumonia, and meningitis. GBS+ is the #1 cause of life threatening infections for newborns and though rare, GBS can cross intact membranes and infect baby in utero.
Newborns are not the only ones affected by GBS+; this infection can also cause a pregnant mom to miscarry, deliver prematurely, and get a bladder or womb infection (i.e. amnionitis, endometriosis).
During pregnancy it is easier to become infected by GBS because a woman’s body undergoes big hormonal and chemical changes soon as she gets pregnant; especially in the 3rd trimester when her body changes kick up a notch. For example, the sugar content of her vaginal fluids increase exponentially as does the warm blood pooling into her pelvic area. GBS thrive and grow in a sugary environment and bask in the warmth.
Pregnancy strains mom’s immune system
All this activity in a pregnant mom’s body can strain her immune system and hamper its ability to keep GBS from colonizing even more. This makes it hard for her to fight off the infection. Adding to all of this is the fact that GBS create harmful toxins that can stress a mom’s kidneys because of all the extra waste that they now need to filter out.
When the immune system is down, GBS have an easier time overpopulating the good flora and can travel from mom’s surface membranes (where they typically live when harmless) and invade/infect her bloodstream and tissues …. even organs. If this occurs, a mom can test positive (+) for GBS.
Whether you are pregnant already or hope to be in the future, now is the time to prepare for a healthy baby that can be born naturally. Tricks to do that.
*Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is NOT Group A Streptococcus, which causes strep throat.
Gardner, J. (1987). Vaginal Infections. Healing Yourself During Pregnancy. Freedom, CA.: The Crossing Press
Gates, D. (2007). Strep B and The Body Ecology Recommendations to Prevent and Overcome It. Retrieved from http://bodyecology.com/articles/strep_b_prevent_and_overcome.php#.UkbjPobkvNl
Iannelli, V. M.D. (2004). More About Group B Strep. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/commoninfections/a/group_b_strep_3.htm
Nettleman, Mary. M.D. (2009). Group B Strep Infection. Retrieved from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/group_b_strep_infection/page2_em.htm
Pulugurtha, S. (2010) Causes of a Strep B Infection. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/255715-causes-of-a-strep-b-infection/
The Group B Strep Association (n.d.). Awareness of Group B Streptococcus Infection During Pregnancy. Retrieved from
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May all bellies be happy!