At my last prenatal appointment, my midwife spoke with me about the choice to do Group B Strep testing, or GBS testing. As far as I know, it was required during my last pregnancy and I honestly don’t recall getting tested. I can assume that it was negative because I’d like to think that if it was positive that I’d remember but there is little I remember about my last pregnancy, especially as I got closer to the end. It’s almost like I blocked it out or chose to forget parts of it.
My midwife said that getting tested for GBS was my choice (I love having choices and not being told I HAVE to do something since it’s MY body). She stated that, if I were to have GBS and didn’t get tested, my baby could get GBS during delivery and apparently some babies die from it. That’s not good! I don’t think she intended to use scare tactics to get me to agree to testing but it certainly did worry me. She encouraged me to do some research on GBS testing and make a decision by my next appointment since that’s when the test would be administered if I opted to have it done.
I read medical websites and homeopathic/natural birthing sites to make sure one side wasn’t trying to scare the reader into their biased way of thinking. I always assume that medical sites are going to push interventions and medical procedures even if they aren’t necessary. It’s part of my fear of doctors (I need to write about my white coat syndrome- it’s a real thing, y’all). Reversely, I often think that holistic resources will preach about the devil that is intervention and modern medicine even when it might be necessary. I sit happily in between these two groups and know that sometimes drinking tea and chewing on ginger root isn’t going to make things all better and that sometimes you NEED antibiotics.
With that said, I still have no idea what to do. Obviously, having to decide whether or not to do the test in the first place is worrying me. My goal throughout this pregnancy has been to stay relaxed and not be drawn into any situation where fear-mongering may occur. My education on GBS during the chat with my midwife was a little scary and I didn’t exactly appreciate it. Now, it isn’t her fault that she frightened me. Well, wait. OF COURSE they scared me. Telling me that my baby could die is fucking terrifying.
However, she did state that in many countries, GBS testing isn’t performed at all and those babies don’t seem to die from it. So is this another case of where constant testing will eventually lead to a positive result? Also, GBS testing is routine and probably even required in many obstetrician practices. I’m not saying that OB offices are dirty but we KNOW that hospitals are rife with bacteria and disease. Imagine getting tested regularly during your hospital stay- how clean could it possibly be? The constant exposure is no doubt going to give your vagina and rectum some unwanted bacteria.
If you already have GBS, it is very unlikely that it will spread to the baby during birth and make him or her sick. Everyone has this bacteria in their GI tract. We are COVERED in bacteria and most of it is good for us. We need it. Yay, bacteria! When your baby is born and you place him or her on your chest, your baby will get covered in your germs and it’s HEAVENLY. Your baby needs those germs. We live in such a germophobic society and that might be why there are some people who always seem to be getting sick. Just a thought.
From the Mayo Clinic website: “If you test positive for group B strep, it doesn’t mean that you’re ill or that your baby will be affected. It simply means the potential for newborn infection exists.” So what does that mean? That even if you have the test done it doesn’t prove one way or the other if you could be carrying the bacteria that would harm you or your baby. Wouldn’t the knowledge of a positive test result just add more stress to the mother which has been proven to be harmful to the fetus?
About 25% of women have this bacteria in their GI tract and, if untreated, 1 out of 200 babies will be born with GBS (which may or may not negatively effect them). However, if the mom is given IV antibiotics during labor, the baby has a 1 in 4,000 chance of GBS getting passed to them during birth. Obviously, nothing is 100% but if both mom and baby are otherwise healthy, is “catching” the GBS bacteria going to cause problems? From what I’ve read, it sounds like the mother and baby will present symptoms way before the testing window (35 to 37 weeks gestation).
So… what would you do? If you were given the option, did you opt in or out of testing? I am not sure which way to go and I’d like to stop worrying about it and move onto more fun pregnancy-related issues like peeing when I sneeze.