GBS & the Use of Antibiotics During Labor & Delivery.

“While many studies have found that giving antibiotics during labor to women who test positive for GBS decreases the rate of GBS infection among newborns, research is beginning to show that this benefit is being outweighed by increases in other forms of infection.”

“A study of 43 newborns with blood infections caused by GBS and other bacteria found that, when the mothers of the ill newborns had been given antibiotics during labor, 88 to 91 percent of the infants’ infections were resistant to antibiotics. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the drugs to which the bacteria showed resistance were the same antibiotics that had been administered during labor.24 For the newborns who had developed blood infections without exposure to antibiotics during labor and delivery, only 18 to 20 percent of their infections were resistant to antibiotics.”

“Preterm labor (i.e., labor before 37 weeks) is a well-accepted risk factor for transmission of GBS to the infant during labor and delivery. Due to the larger risk of transmitting GBS to a premature baby during delivery, most women who go into early labor will opt to receive IV antibiotics during their labor. However, infants born prematurely are at a greater risk from super-bugs caused by the very antibiotics that are supposed to be reducing their risk of infection. Severe complications for the babies, even deaths, have occurred when women whose waters broke before 37 weeks were given antibiotics to prevent transmission of GBS to their newborns. “

“Given the frightening results of these studies, what is a woman to do if she tests positive for GBS during her pregnancy? A closer look at the real risks of transmission, a frank talk with her provider of prenatal care, and a consideration of alternatives for eradicating GBS are all good places to start.”

“It should be noted that antibiotics such as penicillin kill GBS as well as other bacteria that might cause a newborn to become ill. Currently, the use of penicillin during labor may be a case in which the benefits outweigh the risks, depending on your individual risk factors for passing GBS on to your baby. However, it was only a few years ago that the same could have been said about other antibiotics. Ampicillin and amoxicillin have been rendered virtually useless for treating GBS by their prior overuse in laboring women in an effort to prevent GBS infection in newborns. How long will it be before penicillin, too, becomes useless in the battle to prevent GBS infections?”

“Ultimately, it is the pregnant woman herself who will have to decide what is right for her and her baby. Deciding to follow the recommendations of ACOG and the CDC is not necessarily the wrong choice, as long as a woman is adequately informed of the risks that come with antibiotic use. But none of us should blindly follow recommendations to interfere with the natural birth process without taking a good look at the risks, as well as the benefits, of doing so.” (Emphasis mine.)

Excerpts from “Treating Group B Strep
By Christa Novelli Published 08/31/2005 Pregnancy, Birth and Newborn Care

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