My experience: Group B Strep

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I have supported quite a few doula clients who felt blindsided by their Group B Strep, or GBS, positive status, and the subsequent recommendation for IV antibiotics during their birth. Most fear a lack of mobility and being tethered to an IV pole, and of course pain from inserting the plastic tubing for the IV. I have personally experienced birth with and without GBS+ status, and otherwise unmedicated birth with and without an IV and saline lock. Here is my personal experience comparing both.

Disclaimer: This is my personal experience and opinion, this shall not be construed as medical advice. Please seek out whatever information you need to make informed decisions for your own healthcare.

I was GBS negative for my first birth, but GBS positive for my second and third births. I did accept IV penicillin during those two births, so I had a saline lock and an IV with those, but I had no IV access during my first birth.

Insertion of the IV felt similar to having blood drawn in my experience. The placement felt longer, and then I had the IV port taped to my arm and left in place until several hours, up to a full day, after giving birth. Having IV fluids and antibiotics administered was more remarkable, the IV fluids going in made my arm feel cold for a few minutes, and with one of my births I got a metallic smell in the back of my throat (for some it is a metallic taste).

For my two IV birth experiences, I had one saline lock close to my wrist, and in the other my IV was placed up on my forearm.

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Having the saline lock close to my wrist did make it more difficult to move about freely. The IV port so close to a joint meant I had to consider my hand and arm movements and placement more carefully, which meant I had to think about my IV regularly during my second birth. For some, using the wrist joint with the IV placed closer to the wrist will stop the flow of IV fluids and the IV pump will sound an alarm. All these things can be very distracting during childbirth, and can increase your anxiety and pain.

The penicillin administration in my experience was unremarkable. My saline lock was simply hooked up to the IV bags and pump for about an hour while the medicine was administered, and then the IV line was removed and my saline lock in my arm was capped again. My nurses with both births were very good at stopping what they were doing during my contractions so I could do what I needed to stay comfortable.

While I had IV fluids and antibiotics going into my IV, I did feel like my movements were mildly restricted. I felt very aware of moving my arm carefully so I would not pull on the tape holding my IV in place on my arm, and I had to move my IV pole with me, or have a helper move it for me. Overall, this movement restriction was mild from a physical point of view, but very strong from a psychological point of view. Moving any part of my body brought my awareness to my IV port, line, pump, and pole, which did take my attention off of staying comfortable during my contractions. I was able to regain focus on my own comfort during both births fairly quickly though, because my husband, doulas, nurses, and midwives were also helping to keep my IV accessories from restricting my movement, so it was not solely my responsibility.

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For me personally, taking antibiotics always gives me stomach upset and other gastrointestinal discomforts, and I have found that I can lessen those symptoms greatly by taking a probiotic for several weeks after completing the antibiotics. Following my births, I did take probiotics myself, and we gave our babies a probiotic safe for infants of all ages (check with your provider of course).

Comparing my first birth with no saline lock, and my second and third births with IV and saline locks, I did greatly prefer having no IV access in my first birth. However, my third birth, with the IV placed away from my wrist joint, up on my forearm, was a very similar experience to my first in terms of freedom of movement and not needing to pay attention to my IV at all. Once it was placed, and between hooking it up to the IV and removing the IV line after the dose of penicillin, I barely noticed my saline lock at all during my third birth. My experience with the antibiotic itself was similar to my other experiences with antibiotics, with digestive upset in the days following the start of antibiotic treatment.

I hope reading about my experiences was helpful. Here are some other excellent resources that I recommend regarding Group B Strep and routine IV in childbirth:

https://evidencebasedbirth.com/groupbstrep/

https://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-saline-lock-during-labor/