What is Strep B? You may have heard of it but its pretty likely you will have no idea what it is unless you or a family member had been affected by it.
In 2004 my nephew contracted strep B as a newborn from my sister following a normal delivery – he was seriously ill as a result. For a while things were pretty hairy. I remember at the time I was a carefree 21yr old who had no immediate plans to have children so although I did care – a lot obviously – I didn’t really understand it all.
Here is some info on strep B:
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a normal bacterium which colonises up to 30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects. It is most commonly found in the intestines, as part of the normal gut flora (bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract). It is often found in adult women. It is known as a ‘commensal’ – an organism which lives on another without causing any harm.
GBS can, however, occasionally cause infection, most commonly in newborn babies. GBS can more rarely cause infection in adults (typically women during pregnancy or after birth, the elderly and people with serious underlying medical conditions which impair their immune system).
GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease and treatment of the woman and of her partner does not prevent re-colonisation.
So there you have the basic info on what it is.
I found out today that I have it. Following a few tests and samples taken to check for a water infection ( extremely common in pregnancy) it was picked up and my midwife called this morning to let me know.
I am now on antibiotics and will also be given antibiotics intravenously as soon as I go into labour to try to prevent my baby from getting it too. It’s still a worry for me.. Along with the million ( or so it seems ) other little things that have gone wrong with this pregnancy so far but I know I am LUCKY. It’s been picked up and will hopefully prevent my precious newborn from contracting this nasty and dangerous (to babies) infection.
If I hadn’t had a suspected water infection I wouldn’t have known and like my sister I could have faced days of uncertainty about my childs well being when she could possibly have been born with Strep B.
So why isn’t it routinely offered as a test in pregnancy?
Well the simple answer is that in a lot of countries it is but just not here in the UK.
It can be extremely dangerous to a newborn and in most cases can be prevented from being passed on when it is known the mum has it before birth.
I asked on Twitter if any of my followers had suffered from StrepB in pregnancy these are the stories of the people who replied:
@mumslittlepeeps found out at 15wks and was unable to have intravenous antibiotics as baby was premature but baby was treated immediately after birth as a precaution.
@ninafrost had strep B on both pregnancies, with baby 1 she was treated during labour but on baby 2 there was no time as short labour so baby had 48hrs of treatment in hospital following birth.
@mummyglitzer had antibiotics during labour with her baby boy and he had no problems after birth.
@mumsgonemental found out at 28wks but wasn’t given antibiotics until 3 hours into her labour meaning her daughter had to spend 72hrs in a neonatal unit on antibiotics. Frightening yes?
The common line of thought with everyone I spoke to was that it is not taken seriously enough in the UK and I couldn’t agree more.
Group Strep B Support is a UK charity founded in 1996, their three main aims are:
*Offer information and support to families affected by group B Streptococcus;
*Inform health professionals and individuals how most group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented;
*Generate continued support for research into preventing group B Strep infections in newborn babies.
They believe every woman should be fully informed and offered the chance to have the sensitive test to detect GBS carriage late in pregnancy. These tests are not currently available on the NHS but are currently available privately at around £35.
And, longer term? Vaccination could prevent more cases of GBS infection than any other strategy, including preventing preterm labour and stillbirths caused by GBS infection, post-delivery GBS infection in the mother and late-onset GBS infection in the baby. Vaccination would also avoid allergic reactions to the recommended antibiotics and concern about the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Moreover, there are no indications of hazard in this approach. Investment into developing a vaccine against GBS infection is urgently needed.
If you have any other questions or need support look at the GBSS site: www.gbss.org.uk or follow them on twitter: @GBSSupport
If you have had your own Strep B experience I would appreciate your comments as they may help someone. Also it is Strep B awareness month so if you could share this or write about it yourself that would be great.
A very interesting post!
I agonised over the decision as to whether to have the Strep B test done privately when I was pregnant with my son. I wouldn’t have known about it but a friend with a baby has learnt about it at her NCT class and he had had the private test.
After all my research I actually decided to not have the private test. I cannot remember exactly what I read at the time, but I looked at a lot of research and I came to the conclusion that the evidence to support the use of antibiotics in preventing infection in babies was not that great – and I must have perceived some risks to the antibiotic use vs. risk of transmission to my baby- as I decided that as if I did test positive for group B strep vaginally I would not use antibiotics. This made the test pointless to me as what was the point in knowing if I wasn’t going to do anything about it? (I realise this must sound really odd to some people and I’m sorry I didn’t link to the stuff I read. This was over 2 years ago and imagine there is more research now, but I just wanted to tell you how I reached my decision.)
Anyway there I was fretting over whether this decision was the right one when like you I tested positive for group B strep in my urine. In a way I was thankful for this as looking at the research, the fact the bacteria was in my urine increased the risk to my baby and in my eyes did justify the use of antibiotics. It made the decision a lot more clear cut to me.
So I had IV antibiotics in labour and Leo was fine, I think I just about had the recommended amount of antibiotics but only just as my labour was quite quick and unfortunately there was a serious amount of babies being born that night which meant a little delay in me receiving the antibiotics. (and me nearly giving birth in the corridor but that’s another story)
All was well until a week later, I was readmitted with an kidney infection, the cause of which turned out to be, you guessed it, Group B strep! I had no idea there was much chance of it causing problems with me, and the doctors were all surprised as well.
So that’s my Group B strep story! I am just thankful Leo was ok and did not get the infection too. I have nothing to back this up, but I have a loooong history of kidney infections and I think this is what predisposed me to be so ill after giving birth.
Thanks for a great post and I hope all is well with you. Sorry to tell a bit of a negative story.
And yes I do think there should be more awareness of it. I don’t know if I think the test should be available as routine on the NHS, I’m not up to date with current research. I have heard of instances where I think the research does point to mothers being offered the test on the NHS ie. previous pregnancies with GBS, and they have had to fight or pay for it themselves, and I do think that should change.
And the idea of vaccinations is very interesting, I had not thought about that at all.
We lost our little Isobel to step B 4 years ago. At no stage was a test offered, nor antibiotics given. We had never heard of step B until at 1 month old Isobel lost her life. She was perfect and very healthy. Then one Friday @ 10pm She became unwell as was gone in less than 6 hours. We could do nothing. There is never a day we don’t miss her, please please have the test, £35 could have saved her life, DON’T let it take the life of the most precious gift you will ever have. It’s awful that this day and age we still loose children for the same price of a GPs lunch.
In memory of our little star x
I am so incredibly sorry to read about your loss. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that must be. Thank you so much for commenting and helping to raise awareness.x