What is the Group B Strep Test (GBS)
The Group B Strep Test is one of the more highly debated topics related to pregnancy. Group B Strep (GBS) testing is offered as the standard of care for pregnant women in their third trimester. The test occurs sometime between the 35th and 37th week of pregnancy and involves a swab of both the vagina and the rectum that is sent to a laboratory to check for any presence of GBS.
GBS has no relation to the “strep” you often affiliate with a sore throat and is not a sexually transmitted disease. In fact, it is considered a common strain of bacteria that lives in the gut, vagina, and rectum of some adults. Some statistics range as high as 25% of all healthy women.
For most women, there are no symptoms of carrying the GBS bacteria. Why is that? It is most likely because GBS is an “opportunistic” organism. An opportunistic organism is any “bacterium, virus, protozoan or fungus that takes advantage of certain opportunities to cause disease.”
This means in a healthy adult with competing healthy flora, GBS remains in check and does not cause harm to the person. Another example of an opportunistic organism is Candida Albicans (AKA: yeast) and certain strains of E-coli. It is understood that the presence of small levels of Candida can be normal. (Some may even go as far as calling it beneficial.) But a body overridden by yeast is problematic and will manifest in unfriendly symptoms. When an opportunistic organism gets the upper hand and spreads rampant, it is usually because the body has become weakened and immunocompromised.
How Does GBS Impact a Pregnant Woman & Her Baby?
If a pregnant woman is considered colonized by GBS (symptomatic or not), there is a chance she will pass along GBS to her baby as it travels through the birth canal. Whether or not GBS will become a problem for the child is likely dependent on the presence of other bacteria in the vagina. As described before, GBS is opportunistic. If the mother has healthy vaginal flora that is keeping GBS in check, she will most likely also pass along this beneficial bacteria to keep baby healthy. However, if the mother is immunocompromised and lacks the presence of other beneficial bacteria, the passing of GBS could become a problem for the newborn.
GBS infection in a newborn is evident within hours after birth and has been known to manifest into sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, breathing problems, heart and blood pressure instability, and gastrointestinal and kidney problems. Clearly, this should be taken seriously. However, there are major concerns about the approach for treatment and prevention that the mainstream medical field in obstetrics is performing.
In the medical model, if a woman tests positive for GBS during her pregnancy, the standard of care is to give the mother IV antibiotics DURING labor. Antibiotics are given during labor because if given earlier there is a chance the GBS bacteria could come back. The implications of this on the health of both the mother and baby from a natural perspective are devastating.
One of the most important moments in a person’s life is the entrance from the womb to the world. This is the moment of inoculation, God’s way. The vaginal canal is not merely a passageway, rather the opportunity to establish unique microbial protection from the mother as the child enters the outside world. Taking IV antibiotics during labor disrupts the delicate balance of a mother’s vaginal flora and robs the child of one of the most important moments that would establish a thriving immune system.
This might seem like an extreme statement, but if you look at the research being done on what some call the human microbiome (a fancy name for your “microbial make-up”), it is far from extreme. Studies looking at the health outcomes of babies based on their microbial exposure at birth show infants born to mothers with IV antibiotics compared to those born without are experiencing unfortunate consequences after birth.
Studies have shown that antibiotics during birth are associated with the following risks for newborns:
Increased risk of antibiotic-resistant infections.
increased risk of other opportunistic infection, such as E. coli and Candida Albicans.
Increased risk of developing Asthma and Eczema.
Increased risk of Gut Dysbiosis.
If we look at this from a design perspective, it makes sense. God created babies to enter the world through an immune building environment, and if we take this away from them (via antibiotics or cesarean), they are starting out their lives at a disadvantage.
The questions we need to be asking our providers are:
Are the risks of taking antibiotics worth it compared to the risk our children have of developing a GBS infection?
Is universal testing and treatment helping to reduce GBS infections or are they making matters worse by lowering the immune systems of our newborn children?
As parents, how do we proceed? It is imperative we do our research, seek counsel from those we trust, ask the Lord for insight, and make the best choice given the information at hand taking into consideration our present health and risk factors. I find it remarkable that so many practices used in our modern medical system are based on the rare occurrence of certain health conditions. Unfortunately, it is through the utilization of these blanketed protocols that we often risk the well being and safety of healthy individuals. We have to start questioning these practices and asking for better solutions.
During our three pregnancies, our personal choice was to refuse the testing for GBS and make intentional efforts to keep a healthy diet high in living probiotic foods and probiotic supplements that would maintain the body strong and effective against GBS infection. Probiotics specific to women’s vaginal health can be taken orally throughout pregnancy and if there is a concern a single capsule can be inserted each night vaginally before bed in the last weeks of pregnancy.
For others, you may choose to check for GBS, but please know that if tested positive, there are other options beyond the standard of IV antibiotics. Hearing your providers view on antibiotics during pregnancy and discussing them at the beginning of pregnancy is important to know before you find yourself at 37 weeks gestation and feel cornered to make a decision with which you don’t agree. In the case of a positive result, midwives often have protocols of probiotics foods, probiotics supplements, and natural douche remedies used leading up to the weeks of birth.
Mommypotamus in her blog called “I’m Group B Strep Positive-Now what?”, does an excellent job of presenting the research around GBS and sharing her personal story about testing and treatment. In health, there is not always one clear and right answer for every person. We can only make our best decision with the knowledge before us. For our family, we continue to seek the plumb line God presents to us in both His Word and through His creation. Simply put, we believe in Eating By God’s Design and choosing His medicine over the man-made solutions that are so pervasive in our culture today. By trusting in God and using His amazing, healing, and living foods, the health of the body can be sustained and restored for both this generation and the next.