July is Group B Strep Awareness Month

July is Group B Strep Awareness Month

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.

So I’m here to talk about it.

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

Once born:

    • 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.

Leave a comment (or Tweet it to me or ask me on Facebook) with any question about GBS you may have. If you don’t want to do it publicly, email me at janasthinkingplace@me.com.

I’ll post a few times this month with answers to them. And together, we will make the world AWARE OF GROUP B STREP!

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Comments

  1. Jana, honey, how brave you are, facing your own nightmare in hopes of saving another mother from it. #thisiswhyiloveyou
    Cindy recently posted..Why I loved being a stagehandMy Profile

  2. Thanks for this, Jana!
    Beth recently posted..Why I BlogMy Profile

  3. Jana ~ I know you had experienced the tragic loss of a child, I didn’t know the cause. Of course you are passionate about letting others know. Thank you.
    Jamie@SouthMainMuse recently posted..A grab bag list of ten.My Profile

    • Yes. This is the cause of his death. It’s easier for me to talk about grief than something that will scare other people. STrange, huh?

  4. Thank you, Jana. My best friend’s daughter (while thankfully just fine now) contracted GBS shortly after her birth and almost died. She spent the first few weeks of her life in the hospital, covered in IVs. For that reason, I insisted on not only getting tested but when I went into labor early, before my test results came back, I was adamant about getting antibiotics. I am glad you are speaking out – even if ONE person is educated, that is still something. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    • Thank you! I’m so glad your best friend’s baby was fine. Most are. Having antibiotics if you go into labor before you’re tested is standard protocol. It SHOULD be done. But I’m glad you advocated for yourself to get them.

  5. Thanks a lot for this Jana. You have inspired me a lot.
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  6. Tasheena Singh says:

    I really wished I had seen this website before. My baby became an angel baby on 18th feb, 2014. I was 20 weeks and I suddenly stop feeling my baby move. But I just assumed it was normal since I was just 20 weeks. On the 16th I started having slight back pains, but just thought that was normal too. Next morning I woke up with contractions and bleeding. My body was putting itself into labor because it was trying to get rid of the infection. He was borned alive but the doctors couldn’t do anything for him.I am jjust very angry and upset that doctors wait until the 35th week to check. Some may not be in the statistics but I was. I hate the fact that because the chances of it happening are low they wouldn’t check for it earlier in pregnancy. Because then its people like you and I that suffer because we are in the statistics. I feel it should be done through out the pregnancy. I am angry because I had to loss my baby because the chances were very low.

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  1. […] I wrote last week about Group B Strep and GBS Awareness Month. Please read (and share) that post if you haven’t already. […]

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