The number one cause of life threatening infections in newborn babies, since the early 1970’s, is the bacteria Group B Streptococcus (GBS). GBS infections are more common than other illnesses for which pregnant women are screened, such as rubella, Down’s Syndrome and spina bifida. Yet, most people have never heard of GBS!
GBS is a bacteria normally found in the vagina and/or lower intestine of 15% to 40% of all healthy, adult women, and there are usually no symptoms. Most GBS infections are acquired during childbirth when the baby comes into direct contact with the bacteria carried by the mother. About 12,000 infants in the United States will be infected with GBS each year, and will kill about 2,000 infants yearly, while leaving many others mentally and/or physically handicapped.
A routine screening for vaginal strep B is recomended for all pregnant women. This test is performed between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy and involves a swab of both the vagina and the rectum.
If you test positive for GBS, you may be given antibiotics through IV during your delivery to prevent your baby from becoming ill. Taking antibiotics greatly decreases the chances of your baby becoming ill. There is a 1 in 200 chance of your baby getting GBS if antibiotics are not given, and 1 in 4000 if antibiotics are given.
Taking oral antibiotics before delivery has not shown to be effective. There are also herbal methods that you can take 2-3 weeks before delivery that a midwife or homeopathic doctor can provide for you.
For more information: Center for Disease Control, American Pregnancy.org and ChildBirth.org