14 March 2016

What is the risk of GBS infection during water birth?

I would like to share with you Part II of the question I was asking myself: Is water birth bad for baby?
If you'd like to catch up on the first part, please follow here.

When researching for answers, I came accross an article saying that it was bad; however, many professionals disagreed.
Interestingly one of them brought forward this article focused on the risk of GBS infection during water birth:

GBS stands for Group B Streptococcus and can be worrying for pregnant women who are found to have some in their gut (mums are called GBS carriers). In fact, up to 41% of women are carriers and 1 in 2 children born from these mothers will themselves be colonized by GBS. Out of all these children, it was estimated that 1% could develop complications that sometimes can be life-threatening (1 in 10).

This US paper stated that there was a 300% lower rate of early onset GBS infection when babies were born in water (and without using antibiotic prophylaxis) compared with babies born on dry land (both hospitals) - when looking at uncomplicated pregnancy (what are GBS' pregnancy complications?).

In the UK, pregnant women are not routinely screened for GBS (NHS)


The article concluded that if there is a risk of early onset GBS, the risk may be lowered by encouraging the mother to give birth in a warm water pool without antibiotics (effect of antibiotics at birth coming soon).

Another 2007 study showed that GBS-carrier mums who gave birth in the water - as opposed to laboured in the water and got out before the big push - contaminated the water pool with their GBS much more, nevertheless there were fewer of their children colonized by GBS!

In conclusion, for now we can say that water birth has not been shown to influence baby's gut early microbiota and it may even have a protective effect for babies at risk of GBS infection.

Do you know if you are a GBS carrier?

If you'd like to share your thoughts or stories, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment, I'd love to read them.

See you next Monday!

Scientific articles on GBS here and here

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