Have you heard of Group B Strep? It wasn’t something that I’d heard of at all during my first pregnancy, but about a year ago now I read Fiona Paddon’s story and campaign to raise awareness of Group B Strep and the importance of testing during pregnancy. Fiona sadly lost her son, Edward Gili just 9 days after his birth as a result of contracting the Group B Strep infection. I signed her petition and tracked it’s progress through parliament, and was very disappointed when it was decided that the NHS would not be making these tests a regular part of pregnancy testing.
What is Group B Strep?
Group B Strep is a common, natural bacteria carried by around 1 in 4 women, usually unknowingly and without symptoms. It can also come and go rather than being present all the time, and can be passed to your baby during the birth. The consequences of contracting an infection can be very serious; one in ten babies will die from the infection, and one in five babies infected will develop serious illnesses such as meningitis, septicaemia, and pneumonia. However, it can be easily tested for during late pregnancy and if a positive result is found, antibiotics can be administered during labour to treat any potential infection. It’s something which is entirely treatable, and a test that other European countries test for as routine during pregnancy, however in the UK the NHS do not currently offer antenatal testing for Group B Strep as standard.
Testing for Group B Strep with Strepelle
Strepelle is a highly sensitive and accurate private test that you can take at home and then send to a laboratory for analysis. Because Group B Strep can come and go, it’s recommended that the test is taken at around 35 weeks of pregnancy so that if you are found to be carrying the bacteria at that time you can access the required antibiotics during delivery. A positive result may affect your delivery options – at my hospital I have the choice of whether to deliver in the midwife led birth centre, or on the labour ward. A positive test for Group B Strep rules out delivering in the birth centre, as they don’t view your pregnancy as quite as straightforward anymore.
The test costs £39.99 and can be purchased direct from their website to arrive in the post. I was sent a test early on in my pregnancy so that I could share it on my blog, but it’s something that I was aware of and would have purchased myself anyway – I really do think it’s a small amount of money to pay, either for reassurance or to get the treatment that might save your baby. I waited until I’d reached 35 weeks, and then took the plunge.
The kit itself contains the instructions, two swabs, and a pre-paid envelope to send your samples for testing. I have to admit that until I read the instructions I didn’t realise there was a vaginal swab and a rectal swab, so that did come as a bit of a surprise! It’s also worth saying that the swab set comes with the swab stick, and a gel-filled tube to seal it in – you need to twist the lid off of the tube, a fact that escaped me initially and left me a bit puzzled. I do think the instructions could be much clearer on this point – I was concerned that I may have contaminated my sample by jabbing it at the sealed lid (although everything is contained in sterile packaging, so in theory it should have been fine).
You should receive your results within 3 working days of receipt of your samples, and you can choose how you would prefer to receive them – by email, text, phone or letter. I anticipated email would be quickest, so went for that option.
You are advised to send samples off between Monday-Thursday, to prevent the samples sitting in the postal system over the weekend, so I sent mine off on a Wednesday. I have to admit that I was getting a bit concerned about my result when I’d still not heard anything the following Wednesday, but sure enough, first thing Thursday morning my email popped into my inbox with my result. I’m really pleased to say that my result was negative, which means that I should still be fine to deliver in the birth centre as planned. But had my result been positive, I’d still have been relieved to have found that out, so that I could get the treatment to prevent passing the infection to my baby. It’s such a small price to pay for a test that might make all the difference.
Disclosure: I was sent this sample in exchange for my honest review. All words and opinions are my own.