One in 4 women have the Group B Streptococcus bacteria naturally occurring in their digestive tracts and/or vaginas.
One in 200 women who test positive for GBS between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy and who are not treated with oral antibiotics will transmit GBS to their kid during birth.
One in 50-100 women who test positive for GBS in the birth canal during labor and who do not get an antibiotic IV will transmit GBS to their kid during birth.
One in 3 newborns infected with GBS will require medical treatment for sepsis, meningitis, and/or pneumonia.
So multiplying those numbers together, the chances of a newborn contracting a serious or even fatal infection from GBS are extremely small--at least until the kid is exposed to GBS. At which point, the bacteria pose a significant threat to a newborn's immature immune system.
One of those kids who died within hours of GBS exposure was Josh Jones's son Wren. A year after his son's birth (and death), Josh wrote about his family's devastating story, and the little cascade of seemingly inconsequential misses or occurrences that precipitated their tragedy.
In the intervening year, Jones zeros in on their decision to have a home birth, with non-nurse midwives, and a lack of immediate access to intervention, as their critical failures. If that conclusion rankles home birth advocates, I'm sure Jones--who has a 100% catastrophic result rate with giving birth at home--will not hesitate to take them on.
Reading his experience, and reading up on GBS [which, frankly, I hadn't known or even heard much about] and realizing that any birth, whether at home or in a hospital, involves some set of small but real risks, I kept coming back to one idea: until he develops one of his own, parents are a newborn's immune system. And he is entirely dependent on them to minimize or eliminate the risk of exposure to those things that are likely to cause him serious harm.
When you decide to have a home birth, you end up taking a great deal more responsibility upon yourself, things that are otherwise outsourced to medical professionals and hospital infrastructure. And that includes things like relentless follow-up on test results; vigilant, informed watch for symptoms and unexpected situations; and an acknowledgment that there are still going to be things you don't know you don't know. And so you'd better find them out.
Wren Jones [blog.dreamhost.com via waxy]
Support and resource organization: Group B Strep International [groupbstrepinternational.org]
It was really hard to read this doula's lament after knowing Josh's story: GBS: Giant Bothersome Stumblingblock?? [wonderfullymadebelliesandbabies]