July is Group B Strep awareness month. During this month Group B Strep Support will aim to raise awareness of the infection amongst pregnant women and health professionals. Group Strep B is the most common cause of a life-threatening infection in newborns and can cause a number of severe illnesses, in some cases even death. However with the right knowledge, most cases can be prevented. Shockingly around half of pregnant women haven’t even heard of Group Strep B, but this July by spreading the word, you can do your bit to change this.
What is it?
Group B Strep is actually a normal bacteria found in 25% of women usually in the vagina or rectum. Usually, it has few side-effects but during pregnancy is can cause an infection which can lead to early delivery, infections in newborns, late miscarriage and in stillbirths.
Most pregnant women who carry Group B Strep have healthy babies, but in some cases, the infection can pass on to their newborn.
Two babies a day or one in every 1000 babies, develop the Group Strep B infection. Unfortunately, 1 baby a week in the UK dies from the infection, and for others, they can develop long-term disabilities. However, the symptoms do visibly present themselves and can be treated with antibiotics during labour.
Why is it not screened for in the UK?
Testing is the only sure way to know if you are a Group B Strep Carrier, which will identify the risk and then steps can be taken to reduce the risk of your baby becoming infected. However, current screening in the UK is not mandatory or provided as standard practice in the NHS – this is a subject that has divided health professionals and parents for years.
You can find out more about how to buy a simple inexpensive test here.
There is still a long way to go in terms of educating pregnant women about Group Strep B, and for those who experience it during their labour it can be very scary.
Here, one of our lovely MamaBabyBliss baby massage and baby yoga teachers, Katie Raybould, tells us her story.
“On the 11th May at 7.30pm, 8 days past my due date, I lost my waters. Excited I went to the hospital to double check this was it. I hadn’t started labour yet, so this was classed as a pre-rupture of membranes.
At the hospital the consultant confirmed I had in fact lost my waters, they then swabbed me for ‘infection’ not mentioning what infection they were checking for. I asked if it was for Strep B, and the midwife confirmed this to be the case.
Advised by the hospital that I should stay to be induced, I refused as I really wanted to labour at home, but agreed to come in for 8am to be induced should nothing start spontaneously.
Cutting a long labour story short, the following day was spent in the maternity unit being induced with gels, which eventually ended with an emergency c-section.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for many reasons but mostly because I had tested positive for Group B Strep. I don’t know much about it, but what I do know is that it can be very dangerous, sometimes fatal for the baby to be born vaginally if not treated with antibiotics during labour.
The medical staff were so keen for me to birth naturally, before it turned into an emergency, but I am so so grateful that it did.
My little boy was born on the Saturday morning, however I did not get the results from the Strep B test until the Tuesday afternoon.
At this point I was told to look out for signs of meningitis or high temperature. If any presented itself, to rush to A&E,
although it was unlikely as after birth my little boy was put on IV antibiotics and tested for infection.
To say I was scared at this point was an understatement.
I really believe all women should be tested either prior to labour or the test results should be immediately available so the appropriate treatment can be carried out. It is so simple and could save so much heartache for those affected. I was extremely lucky, but only through circumstance, it could have easily been a very different story.”
Katie is currently on maternity leave, but offers classes in baby massage and baby yoga in East Cheshire. You can visit her page here.
Resources and Support
http://gbss.org.uk – Group B Strep Support
Jessica Smart – Independent Midwife Sussex @jessicasmartmidwife did a video this week on the topic