Spot the difference:
BUB.1: My waters broke almost eight hours before I gave birth, during which time I was left to labour in the comfort of home. My midwife only came near me about a minute or two before he arrived in the birth centre. I was on my feet the entire time, it was drug-free and I had utter freedom to move around. It was primeval.
BUB.2: My waters broke about eleven hours before I gave birth but I had to rush straight to hospital and was monitored for signs of contractions, which seven hours later had not started. I was moved into a delivery room, antibiotics were injected into my hand and I was hooked up to an IV drip to induce labour. For the four remaining hours I barely moved from the bed because I was attached to the IV. It was annoying.
Why the difference? Because when pregnant with BUB.2 I had tested positive for the bacteria Group B Streptococcus. I had BUB.1 in Australia where it is routine to screen every pregnant woman for GBS, which if passed from mother to baby in the womb or during labour, can prove fatal to the child.
The bacteria lives harmlessly in 25 per cent of people, one in every 2000 births are affected by a GBS infection and 1 in 10 babies with an infection die.
To be honest, because I tested negative for the bacteria in Australia, when I came back to the UK and got pregnant with BUB.2 I had forgotten all about GBS. I was only reminded of it by chance when my Mum mentioned a couple on the ITV programme This Morning who had lost their baby to it.
Although I knew a positive result would mean I would need antibiotics in early labour, which might jeopardise my chances of another free-roaming birth centre experience, of course I had to test. The test is not offered routinely by the NHS here in the UK, so I sent off for a test from the internet (www.gbss.org.uk/test) towards the end of my pregnancy.
When the result was sent via text to me a week or so later I was shocked to see the word ‘positive’ on my phone. I had expected it to be negative again.
At my next midwife appointment I mentioned the result and she stamped ‘GBS’ all over my notes. This was a fact that was clearly not to be missed. This was important. It is important. But it had been up to me (and my Mum) to know about it. To test for it. To potentially prevent it.
I was instructed to go straight to the hospital at the first sign of labour, in my case my waters breaking during the night. Once your waters have broken, the baby is unprotected and could pick up a bacterial infection. It’s important to administer antibiotics during labour to lessen the chances of infection.
Rather than let nature take its course, I was induced first thing in the morning. It was a totally different experience than with BUB.1. With him I never wanted to leave the room he had arrived in. With BUB.2 I couldn’t wait to leave.
But I left with a healthy, living baby.
I had to stay in hospital for 24 hours so BUB.2 could be monitored every hour for signs of infection. He was fine. The seriousness of the GBS stickers across my notes, and the friendly head poking around the hospital curtain every hour after birth, stays with me. Why, if it is so serious, is every pregnant woman in the UK not screened?
When I got pregnant with BUB.3, the midwife said there was no need to do a further test because as a known carrier of the bacteria, I was treated as positive. GBS was again stamped across my notes and I was told to come straight in and the first signs of labour, which again was my waters breaking.
My hand was again punctured by antibiotics. Fortunately this time my contractions ramped up quickly without the need for an induction. As it turned out, she was an undiagnosed breech, so I was dashed into theatre and she arrived quickly anyway. Again, she was monitored for any signs of infection in the 24 hours after birth. And she was fine.
Which is something this couple, who lost their baby daughter to GBS infection at birth, cannot say. They are calling on the UK Government to make it a legal requirement to screen every pregnant woman for GBS and to give antibiotics to high-risk mothers when delivering their baby, and to monitor those babies following the birth.
I’ve signed this petition because an item on morning TV could have potentially saved the life of BUB.2 or BUB.3. A terrifying thought.