Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a normal bacterium which is carried by 20-40% of adults, most commonly in the gut, and for up to 25% of women, in the vagina, usually without symptoms or side-effects. GBS can occasionally cause infection, most commonly in newborn babies, sometimes in adults and, very rarely, during pregnancy and before labour.
Mummy Social Team member Victoria recently caught up with two mums Carly who is mum to Arthur, and Grace who is mum to Violet and Everly, they are both carriers of Group B Strep and are actively trying to raise awareness through their blogs.
Hi, thanks both so much for chatting with me, so many women have still not heard of GBS, were you aware of it before discovering that you carried it?
Carly – I had no idea about this bacterial infection when I fell pregnant, I had never heard of it or anyone talk about it, I didn’t know the implications of it and had no idea it wasn’t a routine test. I only decided to get tested when my boss at the time mentioned about the test as she had been a carrier herself, having never heard of it I didn’t really take much notice until I googled it and realised I definitely wanted to get tested to prevent passing this bacteria onto my baby at birth as the health implications can be devastating.
Grace – Your right most women have never heard of it neither did I. Group B Strep seems to be a infection/bacteria that doesn’t get talked about although it can be one of the most harmful bacteria’s to carry whilst pregnant. I had never been told or heard about GBS throughout my first pregnancy. It was only until after I knew what it was and at that point for me it was too late.
Carly, you were informed that you were a carrier of GBS at 37 weeks pregnant with Arthur, what did this mean for his delivery? Did you have extra care from the maternity team? If so, what?
Carly – Results showed the active bacteria in my body at the time of my test, which meant once my waters broke I had to head into hospital to start a 4 hourly anti biotic drip and stay in hospital 24 hours after delivery so the maternity team could monitor our baby, I still could have my water birth I hoped for and baby Arthur was delivered healthy and well.
Grace, in October 2017 your first daughter Violet Esme was sadly born sleeping and you also became very poorly with sepsis following the birth. I understand that this is a very sensitive subject but could you please talk me through the lead up to her birth and a what happened to you regarding your battle with sepsis? Was this a consequence of carrying GBS?
Grace – Whilst pregnant with Violet Esme we had decided on a natural birth I was ten days overdue and still waiting for her to make her appearance! My waters broke whilst out walking near my house so we quickly walked home and called our birthing centre. After a couple trips back and forth we decided to stay in. Everything was fine until I became really hot, I thank my husband at the time as he was the one that noticed, if he hadn’t it could of been a lot more worse than what it already was. We called the midwife in, at this point I wasn’t really expecting what she was about to tell me it never crossed my mind. She started my observations my temperature was fine my heart rate was fine only to find Violet’s heartbeat wasn’t. I’ll never forget her face when she put the Doppler on my bump and she asked if she had moved position. We all looked at each blankly because we already knew that Violet had died. I got taken away for this to be confirmed with a scan where they told myself and husband ‘I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat’ the worst and most heart breaking days of our lives I went onto to have a natural birth whilst ill with Sepsis.
They performed a swab for infection and confirmed I had Sepsis/Septic Shock. They later confirmed that I was a carrier of Group B Strep and this was most likely to have caused the Sepsis as my waters went. Our question was how did I get it? Why wasn’t I tested? They told us the test for Group B Strep isn’t routinely tested within the NHS. It would only be picked up if I’d had a swab for something else. I still can’t believe it isn’t tested for or talked about during pregnancy for us if the test was done Violet could possibly still be alive.
The GBS can be passed through to your baby via your waters breaking. During my pregnancy I already knew infection can be passed through the waters a reason why I was being extra careful after they had broken at home. I made a full recovery from Sepsis after being monitored in a special observation ward and then for the rest of the time we stayed with our daughter in a bereavement suite.
Since discovering that you are a carrier of GBS, have you had to make any changes since discovering you carry it? And what needs to happen in any subsequent pregnancies?
Carly – GBS is a common type of bacterial infection, most adults simply carry the bacterium and have no signs or symptoms.
Many healthy people carry group B strep bacteria in their bodies. The bacteria isn’t aren’t sexually transmitted, and does not spread through food or water. You may carry group B strep in your body for just a short period of time, it may come and go, or you may always have it.
GBS can spread to a baby during a vaginal delivery if the baby is exposed to or swallows fluids containing the bacteria.
I will always have a test for GBS with all my future pregnancies now I’m aware of it, they recommend to test from 36 onwards as the bacteria can come and go so towards the end of the pregnancy will give you the most reliable results.
Grace – I haven’t made any other changes as such as Group B Strep can be carried whilst pregnant or not and do no harm. In future pregnancy’s it should be mentioned that I have been a carrier and then it would be down to me how to proceed and to get tested or for the NHS to test me. With my second daughter Everly Hope my consultant was aware that I had been a carrier with Violet. I explained my concerns and we put together a birthing plan suited to me and I would be treated as if I had GBS to be on the safe side. I would be given antibiotics which would be given during my ‘gentle’ (drapes down during delivery) caesarean section, which I did. After my birth with Everly she went on to NICU for breathing problems where she was given antibiotics to make sure no infection was present.
What advice would you give an expectant mother if she’s been told that she’s a carrier of GBS? Is there much support out there?
Grace – If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy I would definitely recommend mentioning it to your midwife or buy a private test which can be done in the last few weeks of pregnancy, as it isn’t in the NHS guidelines therefore it would be up to your midwife to talk about it. If you have already been tested or have been told you are a carrier you should be given antibiotics during labour via an IV drip to stop any infection passing on, more information can be found by speaking to Group B Strep Support. After giving birth to Violet I searched and searched to see if anyone could help the only support I came across was Instagram I found other mums in the same situation as me I spoke to them about how they too were not tested. I also came across Group B Strep Support they are a charity who raise awareness of the infection, support parents, provide information to the NHS and other medical professions and supports study/research days. Since speaking to GBS I realised how much it isn’t spoken about and how many other mums are unaware of the infection. GBS needs to be tested for within the NHS Group B Strep are an amazing charity and someone who we regular speak to and raise funds for. For anyone who has also suffered a loss of a baby or child you can speak to Sands they are a charity who support bereaved parents, remember you are not alone.
Carly – Group B strep infection can lead to life-threatening complications in infants, including: inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia), inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and infection in the bloodstream (bacteremia). I would encourage all pregnant women to have a GBS screening test during their third trimester. If your results come back positive, do not panic it is a common type of bacterial infection most adults carry and have no signs or symptoms. As a carrier you will have a antibiotic treatment during labor every 4 hours until the baby is born and you will need to stay in hospital 24 hours after your birth. It is NOT a test done on the NHS so there isn’t much mention of it, so it’s really important to spread the word to expectant mothers.
Violet’s Wishes Fund was set up last year in memory of Grace’s daughter to provide two cameras to the bereavement suite where they stayed, funds to SANDS and also Group B Strep Support. This year they are selling handmade pin badges to hopefully raise more funds to support these amazing charity’s and to our birthing centre. Donations can be made via the link below:
To follow Grace and Carly please see the links to their blogs below:
Instagram – @coloursofarainbow1
Facebook – colours of a rainbow
Carly also follows a GBS survivor that she would love to raise some more support for