A little over 11 years ago, I was told by the OB I would “have a swab test taken and it will determine whether you need antibiotics during labor or not. There’s a common bacteria caused Group B Strep that can sometimes make babies sick and this will protect your son from it.”
Later that day, my contractions started. They continued every 15-30 minutes for the next 9 days. They weren’t supposed to be “working” contractions yet. It was too early. I was only 35 weeks at the time. I needed to let Charlie cook for a few more weeks.
But the next Tuesday night, May 20, my labor kicked into gear. I spent the night in the hospital, water not broken, ambient making me hallucinate, contracting and being monitored. At 7am, the doctor came in to check me. Feet in stirrups, I remember asking my GBS status. They said negative. And then my water broke. Without anybody touching me.
I was negative. That was good. So that’s all I thought about that.
Labor lasted forever. Charlie was sunny side up so he was turned. Manually. Need I tell you how awesome that felt? His heart rate was hard to hear, so an electrode was screwed into his scalp. Hours went on and epidurals were administered. 14 hours after my water broke, Charlie was yanked into this world. Literally. Little bugger didn’t want to join us here.
But honestly? He wasn’t supposed to.
Four weeks later, we held a funeral for our 24 day old son. Group B Strep. That little bacteria that was tested for during pregnancy took my baby’s life.
Now. I feel like I have to tell you here that Charlie contracted Late Onset Group B Strep at 21 days of age. Anything after 7 days old is considered late onset and isn’t directly related to your GBS status during labor — it can come from labor OR just from “life.”
Group B Strep, Late Onset or Early Onset, is ugly.
But I want to talk about Early Onset GBS and Testing. According to the CDC,
A pregnant woman who tests positive for group B strep 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.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the 1 in 4,000 odds. That means being tested and knowing your status and demanding antibiotics. Most hospitals and doctors are on track with CDC protocol, but sometimes they don’t explain what’s going on well enough. That’s where knowledge becomes power.
I want you to know that, just like the tests for chromosomal abnormalities, gestational diabetes, and amnios, you should ask questions about the very routine Group B Strep test. It seems to be one of those tests that gets done without much explanation. I mean, it’s just a swab.
But it’s serious.
You should know what the risks are if you don’t get antibiotics. You should know what the risks are if you wait until your contractions are 4 minutes apart to get to the hospital. You should know the risks if your water breaks or has been ruptured for more than a few hours. And you should also know that if you think that having a natural, home birth, or one with alternative treatments will prevent it, it won’t. If your baby comes out of your girly bits, YOUR BABY is susceptible to Group B Strep and all that entails. So get the antibiotics.
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THESE THINGS BECAUSE I DON’T WANT ANY MORE BABIES TO DIE.
I’ve written this post 4 times. This morning, as I opened my computer to write it, there was not one, but TWO emails from people who have recently lost babies to Group B Strep in my inbox. It pushed me over the edge. I’m mad that in spite of amazing tests there are still false negatives and we are still burying babies.
If you have say-so with your OB, ask for a more advanced test than most, a molecular test. An example of a molecular test in particular is the illumigene® GBS test from Meridian Bioscience.
Ask your doctor about the test.
Ask questions when you are tested.
Ask for the antibiotics, just in case they let it slip through the cracks.
Ask for more information.
And remember, ALWAYS follow your mommy instinct.