We know that GBS is common, but what expecting mothers don't know is often how serious it is, and just how inconsistent testing is across the globe. Alongside being concerning at birth, it can also cause miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-term labour and affect a newborn later known as "late-onset GBS".
Testing typically occurs around 35-37 weeks of pregnancy through a simple swab, yet in many states across Australia this swab is not mandatory, and little discussed depending on the hospital or birth support given to the mother during her pregnancy journey.
Many healthy babies are born, free of GBS without any testing, but many babies are born facing life-changing conditions, and in severe cases death. All of which could've been detected through a swab and prevented with antibiotic treatment at birth.
I lost my first child, Foxx at 3 days old due to this bacteria. He was born healthy at 38+ weeks, a natural vaginal delivery and I had a GBS swab that was negative when I was 36 weeks pregnant, so why am I confident in recommending the swab for all expectant mothers?
It's because I now know just how transient this bacteria is, meaning it could be there today and gone tomorrow and if a doctor had told me what that means I could've advocated for my unborn child and requested subsequent swabs to allow myself the chance to present a positive which would've changed our birth plans.
It's the very reason that today, I am still passionate in communicating that if you are reading this here and now, and are expecting or know an expecting mother and feel the urge to share this with them to please do. It is through the sharing of this information I have been responsible for helping to empower other mothers to ask for more than one swab test and through this women have received a positive result and been able to make an informed decision about their delivery.
Your birth is the smallest part to your parenting journey, but the one lesson I find birth teaches us is the most important one - that is is no longer about "you" but now about the child you are carrying and sometimes we have to set aside all of our birth plans for the safe arrival of that child. You should feel empowered when you make decisions like that too.
3 important considerations to acquiring GBS testing in pregnancy:
- Not all hospitals and birthing facilities offer GBS testing as apart of the pregnancy journey. You may need to request this.
- From a personal opinion (not medically backed) I would strongly encourage a minimum of 3 swabs during your pregnancy. 24 Weeks, 30 weeks, 36 weeks and if you make it past 38 weeks then consider weekly testing. This is because of a 95% accuracy rate on testing, it can give a false negative, can be done incorrectly or late on-set colonisation is possible. Therefore your best chance for having confidence in a negative reading is through a minimum 3 swabs.
- If your doctor or nurse denies you the test, please know you do have a right to request it again. You may have to advocate strongly for this but past pregnant women have found an easier way to obtain the test when the nurse/doctor initially pushes back is to state I am your sister, or cousin and refer to our story of losing our son Foxx.
Additionally, as a parent it is important to be educated and aware of late-onset signs of Group B Strep detection in your newborn. You can read about the signs to look for here.
As a women expecting a child, I too know the fear that already fills your mind daily through pregnancy. Please know, that the intention here is not fear but to educate and support you with knowledge and confidence.
All we want in this world, is to be blessed with healthy children, and on behalf of all the families raising children who were affected by Group B Strep whether their children are here today healthy and well, living with the life-long disabilities it can cause, or in my case remembering their child who isn't here now. This is all we want for you, to be blessed with healthy children but with information and support that allows you to support an outcome better than ours.