Decisions about what to do to protect babies born at home from Group B Streptococcus caused quite a stir as we were developing our final regulations for the practice of Midwifery in AZ. Group B Streptococcus bacteria are commonly found in healthy women. In fact, about 25% carry the bacteria. It doesn’t cause much of a problem for women, except that it can pass on to their baby during childbirth…. and if the mom is carrying the bacteria the baby can get very sick and even die if the mom isn’t treated during delivery.
Being a carrier for the bacteria doesn’t mean you have an infection. It only means you have these bacteria in your body. The bacteria are not spread from food, sex, water, or anything that you might have come into contact with. They come and go naturally in the body.
Fortunately, there are some simple precautions to protect babies if the mom is carrying the bacteria. You can ask your doctor, nurse, or midwife for a test when you’re 35–37 weeks pregnant. The test is an easy swab of the vagina and rectum that shouldn’t hurt. Each time you’re pregnant, you should be tested again because the bacteria comes and goes. The medicine to stop the germ from spreading to your baby is an antibiotic given during labor because the antibiotics work best if you get them at least 4 hours before you deliver. The antibiotic (usually penicillin) is given to you through an IV (in the vein) during childbirth. You can read more on CDC’s Group B Strep Feature Website.
Our final regulations for the practice of Midwifery allow a Midwife who’s providing services to a mom to continue providing midwifery services even if the mom declines to be tested for Group B Strep as long as the mom gives informed consent and understands the potential risks to the baby if they don’t do the test.