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.