I was pregnant with my second baby and up until a routine test at around 4 months pregnant I had never even heard of Group B Strep before. I had routine doctors appointment where she took a urine sample from me and a week or so later I had the call to inform me I had Group B Strep in pregnancy (Group B Streptococcus).
It is estimated that one in four women have Group B Strep in their digestive system and vagina. Usually, this wouldn’t pose a problem but during pregnancy, the bacteria can sometimes be passed to the baby via the amniotic fluid or as the baby passes through the birth canal in labour. Most babies will be unaffected but around 1 in every 2000 cases, they can become infected.
Whilst the risks are low, to prevent this from happening if it is detected the mother has Group B Strep she will have to receive intravenous antibiotics during her labour.
I was quite shocked when I received the call because like I said I had never even heard of it before. When I was pregnant with Lauren we were living in England. The mention of this virus never popped up in conversation during any of my ante-natal appointments. The difference the second time around, however, was where we lived …
My second pregnancy was whilst we lived in Ireland. I went to a routine doctors appointment and handed over my urine sample just the same as I did when I was pregnant the first time. This time however they sent it away to be tested after the Dr did the routine dip test in the surgery. A week or so later I received a call from the doctors to say I had tested positive for Group B Strep. She gave me a rundown of what it was but to be honest I hardly took any of it in because my mind was racing all over the place.
It was at my next appointment. I understood more about it.
I was told that I would need to be given antibiotics as soon as I went into labour. The plans I had to labour at home for as long as I could were now out of the window. It was important for me to get to the hospital as soon as possible to begin the antibiotics via a drip. I had to have the antibiotics in my system for at least 4 hours before I delivered the baby. If it was under 4 hours the baby would require the drip and antibiotics himself as a precaution in case anything got passed on.
Babies who do contract Group B Strep can become very poorly very quickly and it can sometimes result in death. I did some research online and was astounded to discover the reasons why I had never heard of this virus before now.
Whilst it was a routine test carried out in Ireland it’s not something the test for in the UK! The only way of you finding out if you carry the virus is to take your own test …. or if your baby becomes poorly after birth … sometimes this might not even happen for a few days!! I suddenly felt very lucky to have been in a Country where I had the test because otherwise I would have been none the wiser and the outcome could have been so different.
I ended up having to be induced with Caiden because of his movements had slowed down around his due date. I was kind of relieved in a way because for weeks leading up to his due-date I kept wondering if every little twinge or Braxton Hicks was the start of labour, and with me needing to go to the hospital for the antibiotics it was was a tricky one – so many false alarms and do we or don’t we go in … this way I knew from the beginning we could get the drip set up.
How wrong was I. My labour with Lauren was just a little over 10 hours. I expected (well hoped) my second time wasn’t going to be as long but long enough for the drip to be up. But as this game is so unpredictable … no two labours are the same are they?
I arrived at the hospital on the day of induction and after all the initial checks on his heartbeat, my blood pressure etc we were taken to the ante-natal ward for the pessary. I was told the antibiotics would be given once I headed to the delivery room …. so far so good.
It never quite turned out as planned. My labour took off immediately and within an hour or so my waters broke and I was taken to the delivery room. The drip was set up and the antibiotics had started .. but Caiden decided to join us just after 2 more hours!!! So the antibiotics would have done absolutely nothing.
I knew what that then meant … my baby would have to have a stay in the special baby care unit, jabbed with injections and have a drip set up to begin his antibiotics. It’s not how I had visualised the beginning of our time together.
He spent 30 hours in the special baby care unit because he had some issues with his breathing (he was grunting) he had low blood sugars that he couldn’t regulate and he was very sleepy and didn’t look for food (which didn’t help his blood sugar levels) and he had problems regulating his temperature.
Nothing was ever confirmed whether he did pick up the virus when he was delivered but the symptoms he had were very similar to the symptoms babies can show if they have picked it up.
- being floppy and unresponsive
- poor feeding
- grunting when breathing
- an unusually high or low temperature
- unusually fast or slow breathing
- an unusually fast or slow heart rate
Either way and whatever caused him to be so poorly in those first few hours/days it does make me think how lucky I was to have had him in Ireland. Had this of happened in the UK would it have lead him to be more poorly as the days went on? Who knows, we never will but I am grateful we were where we were so he could get the treatment he may have needed.
He was taken to SCBU for his antibiotics which he required every 4 hours via a vein in his hand for almost 3 days.
I don’t know why women don’t get tested in the UK during their pregnancy because surely it could save so much later down the line.
I see on social media quite a lot of people who have had their babies become very poorly due to Group B Strep and sadly some of those people have lost them.
We are not having any more children, but if I was, I think I would be entitled to the antibiotics because it’s on my records I’ve had it before If I wasn’t and seeing as we now live back in England I would be purchasing the test myself privately to ensure the best outcome.