Get checked out for a GBS infection

Finding out you have a group B streptococcus (GBS) infection can be scary. But actually, it doesn’t need to be anything to worry about.

By week 26 of your pregnancy, your baby is considered to be viable, which means that if he is born now, he would stand a chance of surviving. While, it’s hopefully far too early for you to go into labour just yet, understanding GBS will help you to make the necessary decisions when the time comes. This week, one pregnant lady tells us of her experience with a GBS infection.

Coping with being diagnosed as having GBS infection.

Had my sister not been a midwife, I don’t think that I would necessarily have heard of GBS (group B streptococcus). I mean, when you’re pregnant there are so many things to think about right from the minute you find out to the minute you give birth. And then there’s a whole host of different things that hopefully you’ll never know about!

Up until 26 weeks pregnant I’d concentrated mainly on eating healthily and keeping myself hydrated and well rested. I’d been feeling kicks for a while, since around 19 weeks I think, but it wasn’t until I’d passed the viability threshold at 24 weeks that my focus changed a little, and I started to think about keeping my baby as safe and well as possible inside me.

Under my very nose, he had stopped being an extension of my body and now existed as a separate being; or that was how he felt to me at least.

A chance conversation with my sister about pregnancy screening made me start to think about group B streptococcus. I’d never heard of it before, but she explained that it’s a normal bacterium to carry, both vaginally and rectally. It’s not an STI and it doesn’t usually cause any problems, but it can be a risk to the unborn baby during pregnancy.

My sister suggested that I ask my midwife to test for GBS in my urine at my next appointment – I had to be proactive, she said, because GBS isn’t routinely tested for in the UK. Not all practices will test for it but you can always ask about arranging a private test as well.

And that’s what I did.

Up until I had the test, I didn’t think too much about it – and then the result came back positive for GBS in my urine

To say that I was shocked was an understatement. I knew I’d been pretty lucky not to have any complications so far, but it still hit me like a tonne of bricks. My midwife gave me some leaflets and said not to worry too much, we could discuss plans for labour at my next appointment. The thing is, my next appointment was over four weeks away, so I did the next best thing and spent all afternoon furiously googling GBS in pregnancy.

Suffice to say, it wasn’t a good picture that was painted. I learned that it could cause miscarriage (although at 26 weeks I was too far on for that to be an issue) but also premature labour and stillbirth.

And there were confusing statistics for risk factors in the pregnancy. Feeling very lucky indeed, I got straight on the phone to my sister. I’d texted her earlier to tell her the news, but we hadn’t spoken yet. I got quite tearful when I was telling her about what I’d read online and how worried I was for my baby, but she really helped me understand the significance of carrying GBS and showed me that it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.

“Just because you have it, does NOT mean that your baby definitely will. What it tells us is that the actual risk of your baby developing a GBS infection is raised because it’s been found in your urine. The risk is also increased if a previous baby has contracted GBS (but that’s not a factor for you). So combined risk factors mean that there’s more chance of your baby getting this infection – but that isn’t something that you need to worry about.”

“What do I need to worry about then?” I asked.

She told me that the infection could be passed to the baby during birth and that there are a couple of clinical risk factors to be aware of; things like me having a raised temperature during labour, that’s 37.8 degrees or higher. Also if I were to go into premature labour or if my waters were to break before 37 weeks, or if my waters go 18 hours or more before delivery. Those are the situations that I would need to be wary of

I asked if there was anything I could do to lessen the risk?

She told me that if I got a urinary tract infection as a result of the GBS then I’d probably be offered antibiotics and that I should be offered intravenous antibiotics when I go into labour because it’s the best method of preventing the infection being passed on. And that have GBS could have implications for the type of labour I’ll be able to have.”

So, no homebirth, no water birth and constant monitoring.

At this point I hadn’t thought much about labour and she said I lucky because I was free to make my plans with this information in mind. She also told me that while it’s almost always a shock when a mum-to-be gets this sort of news, GBS is actually a very treatable condition when managed correctly. And getting the test result early meant there was every chance of that happening.

I think it was this last thing she said that really reassured me. It was good to know that although, yes, there was a problem, it was a positive sign that it had been found relatively early on and appropriate steps could be taken. I also did feel incredibly lucky to have the support of my sister, not many pregnant women have their own, on-call midwife 24/7!

Important – If you or your child are unwell you should seek medical advice from a professional – contact your GP or visit an A&E department in an emergency. While My BabyManual strives to provide dependable and trusted information on pregnancy and childcare 24/7 via our website pages, we cannot provide individual answers to specific healthcare questions.