Group B Strep – what you can do
It’s hard, reliving the memories over and over again. Questioning every part of my pregnancy and birth but trying not to blame myself. A year on, I don’t blame myself. I don’t blame anyone. Sadly, Group B Streptococcus is a bacteria that I believe still needs further research to restore confidence in women performing a swab check to test if they have the bacterium is actually accurate or not.
I say this because at 37 weeks with my son Foxx, I performed the swab test. I received a negative result. Yet I will still tell you go get a swab! Not one, not two but maybe three or four. Just like a blood test, it is simple. It should be as routine and as frequent as a blood test during pregnancy. It is better to get a positive result than a negative (if you have it) because a positive will ensure you receive the proper treatment during birth which is antibiotics given to you by IV drip whether you are having a vaginal or c-section – Your newborn can receive a dose of antibiotics administered directly to them after birth too which we opted for with our second pregnancy.
If your reading this for the first time, you may not know my full story. You can read about it here which I hope makes sense but I can’t reread my own articles without bringing back intense emotion so in short.
On 26 march, 2017 I gave birth to our first child, our son Foxx after a ‘textbook perfect pregnancy’ including one where I tested negative to a group b strep swab at 37 weeks. I have a ‘drug-free’ vaginal delivery after 17 hours labour (7 active) in a birthing centre which was the method of delivery we chose with the belief of giving our child the best start to life. Five hours after birth he presented ill after all initial vitals showing he was healthy and perfect. He was admitted to NICU and put on antibiotics and shortly after began fighting for his life. Three days later he lost that fight. I have felt pain but nothing can compare to the pain of losing your own child before they even have a chance.
I began to search for other women who went through the same. Trying to find the missing pieces. Where did it all go wrong? All the ‘signs and symptoms’ I had none of. These signs are said to be:
- Waters being broken for more then 18 hours (risk of infection)
- Fever during labour
- Urinary tract infection of GBS
- Premature labour
None of those symptoms were applicable for me. When I did connect with other women who have been through the same experience though I found other consistencies. These are the signs I believe should prompt you to more frequent GBS testing during your pregnancy.
- Any bleeding
- Recurrent pregnancy thrush (consistently returns despite treatment!)
Those were some small symptoms I had during my pregnancy with Foxx. The recurrent thrush particularly interests me as I often wonder if it can mask the GBS bacteria and considering the other women in similar shoes to me experienced the same.
The advice I would give someone concerned and what I did during my second pregnancy is the below.
Firstly, ensure you have an obstetrician and pediatrician that understands your concerns and fears. If your public then ensure you have a midwife that does otherwise request to speak to an ob within the hospital that will. Having them on your team when you are feeling fear and need the medical support is so important in making you feel confident. This also means not asking women online whether you think the swab is important or not to do (one question I often see in mothers groups which makes my heart shatter a little especially when a woman says ‘I was positive but didn’t get antibiotics and my baby was okay’ just remember that what that women says may not apply to you and could you forgive yourself if something happened to that womans child or your own? Your essentially giving medical advice. You may also have not ‘actually’ had the bacteria during the crucial time of labour despite testing positive because it is transient – you were one of the lucky ones) I wasn’t.
Secondly, I did:
- Took probiotics twice a day all through my pregnancy. I am coeliac (auto-immune disease which can also compromise gut health) so I felt I needed an extra dose or two to ensure it is keeping my gut health in check through pregnancy. I take pono probiotic powder in my smoothie every morning and inner health plus capsule.
- Limited sugar intake
- Avoided sex ( I didn’t want to risk anything and we agreed on this after discussion of finding that cervical mucous could promote the bacteria – although it is not sex related)
- Showered immediately after swimming in pools and avoided swimming for the first 20 weeks (again flushing and minimising any exposure to bacteria)I would also encourage women (in the kindest way possible) to not pressure themselves into thinking too much into how they deliver their baby. A vaginal delivery is amazing but so is a csection as long as your baby arrives well that is all that matters. The way you birth won’t be spoken of in months time. I questioned myself hundreds of times if the group b strep bacteria crossed my membranes when I sat in a birthing pool, or because I opted for the birth centre delivery which encourages the most natural delivery with minimal monitoring and I so very wish I could sometimes change the way I birthed then knowing what I know now. All I encourage is to opt for monitoring where you can. If you find yourself sharing your birthing preferences on social media then just make sure you birthing preferences are really your preferences and not something you are doing for anyone other than yourself.
This is the same for any other things that may be the latest discussion (e.g. placenta encapsulation) which is an old tradition but make sure you don’t always just take the advice of others who have done it online and ensure you seek quality advice and research the other side of something you are interested in. Research the side effects, the negative experiences so you can base your decision on both the good and the bad. For me, I wasn’t interested in placenta encapsulation the first time but looked into it for my second pregnancy before discovering a bacterial risk of its own too.
In all honesty, it was a small sacrifice to have a healthy child. I did opt for a c-section this time to ensure we had a controlled and highly monitored delivery and to ensure all the specialists we had chosen to be able to be present were able to be. This is just my story, these are what I have learnt in my journey. These hopefully answer a lot of the questions I continue to get asked frequently.
Lastly, please research late-onset GBS and familiarise yourself with the signs of late-onset GBS which can occur in a newborn weeks after birth. This website is best here
We happily welcomed our second child, Elle. Safely into the world on March 12th, 2018.
‘The sun shines after a heavy storm but the storm will always come back around. The rain will fall on occassion and we will remember all that we lost before we see the rainbow shine back through the clouds again.’
I love you Foxx and Elle. This is for you. This is for my future babies and for you.