Prenatal and postnatal complications are unfortunately not extremely rare, even in the United States. This month, Band Back Together is bringing them to light in our spotlight series.
We invite you to share your stories of any type of complication before or after the birth of your child. Whether it's preeclampsia, a cord trauma or an infection like Group B Strep, we want your stories.
I struggle with being extremely vocal about Group B Strep awareness. I would love to scream, “DANGER DANGER” from the rooftops, but for me personally, I don’t like to frighten people.
I struggle with knowing when to step in and say, “You really should head to the doctor since your baby has x, y and z symptoms because those are signs of GBS.” I’ve done it a few times on Facebook and Twitter and in real life, but the bottom line is, I don’t want to say anything because I don’t want people to think their baby is going to die just because mine did.
I struggle with being able to spout statistics, because statistics are bullshit. Yeah, the chances of a baby contracting early onset GBS are slim. It’s even more slim to contract late onset GBS. And it’s downright rare for a baby to die from late onset GBS. But when YOU are the statistic – the rare one – it’s often hard to tell someone of your experience without causing sheer panic.
I don’t struggle with talking about grief. But I do struggle with talking about Group B Strep.
July is Group B Strep Awareness Month.
For those who don’t know and who may stumble across this page, let me first tell you about Group B Strep.
What is Group B Strep (GBS)?
Group B strep (GBS) is a type of bacteria that is naturally found in the digestive tract and birth canal in up to 1 in 4 pregnant women who "carry" or are "colonized" with GBS. Since levels of GBS can change, each pregnancy can be different. Carrying GBS does not mean that you are unclean. Anyone can carry GBS. (Quoted with permission from Group B Strep International)
When will they test me for Group B Strep and what does that even mean?
CDC’s guidelines recommend that a pregnant woman be tested for Group B Strep when she is 35 to 37 weeks pregnant. The test is super simple. It's simply a swab of the vaginal area and rectum. Results are typically back at your next appointment. At that time you'll be told whether you're positive or negative.
A pregnant woman who tests positive for GBS and gets antibiotics during labor has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby with group B strep disease, compared to a 1 in 200 chance if she does not get antibiotics during labor.
Any pregnant woman who had a baby with GBS disease in the past, or who has had a bladder (urinary tract) infection during this pregnancy caused by GBS should receive antibiotics during labor.
What’s the difference between prenatal onset, early onset and late onset Group B Strep?
Prenatal onset of Group B Strep happens before your baby is born.
Early onset relates to cases from birth to 7 days old.
Late onset typically relates to cases from 7 days old to 3 months (or later in some cases, but that's the typical timeline for GBS to infect a baby).
What do I look for?
Symptoms of Prenatal Onset Group B Strep:
- decreased fetal movement or no movement after 20 weeks
- unexplained fever in mother -- signals infection
- High-pitched cry, shrill moaning, whimpering
- Marked irritability, inconsolable crying
- Constant grunting as if constipated
- Projectile vomiting
- Feeds poorly or refuses to eat, not waking for feedings
- Sleeping too much, difficulty being aroused
- High or low or unstable temperature; hands and feet may still feel cold even with a fever
- Blotchy, red, or tender skin
- Blue, gray, or pale skin due to lack of oxygen
- Fast, slow, or difficult breathing
- Body stiffening, uncontrollable jerking
- Listless, floppy, or not moving an arm or leg
- Tense or bulgy spot on top of head
- Blank stare
- Infection at base of umbilical cord or in puncture on head from internal fetal monitor
What is the outlook for a baby who contracts GBS?
Babies can be infected by GBS before birth and up to about 6 months of age due to their underdeveloped immune systems. Only a few babies who are exposed to GBS become infected, but GBS can cause babies to be miscarried, stillborn, or become very sick and sometimes even die after birth. GBS most commonly causes infection in the blood (sepsis), the fluid and lining of the brain (meningitis), and lungs (pneumonia). Some GBS survivors have permanent handicaps such as blindness, deafness, mental challenges, and/or cerebral palsy. (Quoted with permission from Group B Strep International)
Now we’re all caught up on what Group B Strep is.
So here’s where I’m honest with you.
I don’t believe in scaring people. I believe in educating people and arming them with the information that will allow them to make informed decisions.
Unfortunately, I can’t make decisions for everyone. If that were the case, nobody would ever have their membranes stripped, internal exams after finding out they were GBS+, scalp electrodes during labor, long labors without c-sections, or choose to not have antibiotics during labor with a positive GBS status.
In short, I would put everybody in a GBS-proof bubble.
As long as there is life on Earth, there will be baby loss. There will be mothers dying during labor, babies taking one breath, babies spending weeks and months in the ICU because of life-threatening conditions. As much as we want to eradicate it, it’s a fact of life.
I’m armed with more information about GBS than most doctors, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to your doctor about Group B Strep. Because the incidence rate is smaller and smaller, a lot of doctors do the test at 35-37 weeks and just throw out the positive or negative results without much of an explanation. Make them explain it to you. Talk to them. Understand it.
Use your mommy and daddy instincts and USE YOUR PEDIATRICIAN. That’s why they went to high-dollar schools for a bazillion years. To help you when you need them.
The baby does something you don’t like or understand? Call them. Go in.
BE THAT MOM!
I can’t underscore this enough. YOU know your baby better than anyone and have to follow your instinct. If it says, “call the doctor,” then by God, call the doctor.
Your gut is rarely wrong.
Anyway, in honor of Group B Strep Awareness Month, I want to answer your questions.
I’ll post a few times this month with answers to them. And together, we will make the world AWARE OF GROUP B STREP!8 Comments