I’m sure every mama that’s made it to her 36th week of pregnancy remembers the GBS test. It’s hard to forget a Q-tip swab to your bum. I did it with each pregnancy, and all 3 times I tested positive. Every time I was told “it’s no big deal, you’ll receive 2 rounds of antibiotics during labor and you’ll be fine!” And for most people, it is no big deal. Until it’s your baby that becomes ill with Group Beta Strep, and you’re left wishing you had known more beforehand.
Approximately 1 in 4 healthy women carry the GBS bacteria, and show no symptoms of it (APA). However, if passed to a newborn baby, it can be fatal. It can be seen as sepsis, meningitis, pneumonia, or many other fatal symptoms (CDC).
For our sweet baby, the first symptom was her breathing. She was in our hospital room with us for 4 hours before a nurse came in and noticed that her undertones were more grey than pink. In the blink of an eye, a rapid response team of atleast 8 people were in our hospital room, and were rushing out with my baby just as quickly. Her oxygen saturation was at 40%. She was given morphine, intubated, hooked up to numerous monitors and was on IV fluids. It was terrifying.
Her bed was at an incline to open up her lungs, so that they could fill with oxygen. We couldn’t hold her. We could rest our hand on her, but couldn’t rub or stroke because it would over stimulate her. We celebrated when she graduated from being intubated to being on the oxygen cannula. She spent days learning how to breathe. I cried tears of joy when her cannula was removed and she was breathing on her own. Feedings were a whole new struggle. Her body was so exhausted from fighting the infection that she couldn’t stay awake for an entire feeding. I tried nursing, nursing with a shield, and pumping and offering her a bottle. We would celebrate the few mL that she ate by mouth, and finish off each feeding with her feeding tube. It was the most mentally exhausting time I had ever experienced, and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.
The day we brought her home was a day full of many conflicting emotions. I was so ready to be able to hold my baby girl without needing a nurse’s permission. I couldn’t wait for my daughter’s to meet their new sister without the fear of bumping her tubes and monitors. But I was terrified. I would no longer be able to look at a monitor and see her oxygen saturation, blood pressure and heart rate. At home, there were no monitors to go off if she had another oxygen desaturation. And the scary fact was that if a nurse hadn’t noticed her color was off, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to notice.
She’s been home for almost 6 months now. She’s incredibly happy, beautiful and thriving. But to this day she’s still feeling he effects of her time in the hospital. Her body cannot digest the proteins found in dairy, eggs or soy, due to the antibiotics wiping out her gut flora.
- Taking a probiotic daily, or eating a diet rich in probiotics, with fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc.
- Taking vitamin C daily
- Taking garlic capsules or eating raw garlic daily
- Ingesting unfiltered Apple cider vinegar
And furthermore, testing negative for GBS at 36 weeks does not mean that you won’t have it at the time of delivery. For many people, GBS is not a big deal. But when it’s your baby, it really is.
I wish I could go back and not relied on antibiotics to protect my baby. I wish I had taken matters into my own hands, so that maybe I could have spent her first days of life snuggling and kissing on my sweet newborn, rather than watching a monitor and jumping at every alarm. I wish that my daughters could have met their sister for the first time and greeted her with hugs and cuddles, instead of watching her lay in an inclined bed. But I can’t. But I can talk about what I do know now, and hope that it helps another mama to protect their baby, so that they CAN spend their first days loving on their sweet new baby.
*since posting, I’ve been asked a couple times if I’m meaning to say that I wish I had not received the antibiotics. My answer is no. Without antibiotics, 1 in 200 babies whose mothers test positive for GBS are affected by it as well. When a mother received antibiotics, that number goes down drastically to 1/4000. If I could go back, I would still receive antibiotics. But that would not have been my only regime to protect my baby. I wish I had done everything I could from home so I was not reliant on only antibiotics.*