This campaign was inspired by Molly, a GBS mom, who encourages everyone to find their own way to spread the message about GBS. The goal of our #starttheGBSconversation campaign is to simply get people talking about GBS in their communities and perinatal healthcare providers talking to their patients about GBS disease prevention. Although healthcare providers usually have printed information to give their patients, some people struggle with how to get involved. A simple conversation can have a big impact. But starting the conversation is usually the most difficult. Molly starts her conversation with a bracelet that has colored stones representing the awareness ribbon. Whether you begin yours with a bracelet, a key chain, a mug, or even a simple "hello," you too can #starttheGBSconversation!
"I had often thought about wanting something visual that showed my support for GBS, but never knew the best way. That was, until I was introduced to Keep Collective jewelry.
In January 2017, I was invited to a Keep Collective jewelry party at a friend’s home. As guests were trying on various pieces of jewelry and brainstorming custom creations, I had narrowed down the type of jewelry to a bracelet. Since the bracelet price was more than what I typically pay for an accessory, my goal was for it to be meaningful. A guest had mentioned incorporating my son, Levi’s, December birthstone into the design, but while I was mixing and matching, I started thinking about the three colors associated with GBS; blue, pink and white. I explained my idea to the sales associate who helped me select the pastel charms with the reversible black/brown leather band. It was perfect!
As I was quietly placing my order, guests started asking what I selected. I was able to share with 10 woman that evening about GBS.
I really started understanding the affect of being able to spread awareness about GBS, when I would receive compliments from women when I wore the bracelet. I would say thank you and the conversation lead into an explanation about the charms representing GBS.
I decided to share my experience about how I was finding ways to inform others about GBS on the GBS International Facebook page. It was at the end of the post, I concluded with the hashtag #starttheGBSconversation. And as you could say, the rest is history."
Amrita Lal-Paterson is the laboratory manager for a forensic DNA laboratory. She has spent most of her life studying the sciences. Until the death of her daughter, however, she had never heard about how harmful group B strep could be.
Amrita and her husband Geoff met in New Orleans, LA; the inspiration for their daughter's name, “Nola”. After dating for several years they decided to get married and move to Philadelphia in order to be closer to family when they had children of their own. In 2007, Amrita became pregnant with their first child.
“I had a very healthy pregnancy. I was doing yoga at 38 weeks,” Amrita said. “We felt as though we had everything ready for our baby.” At 5 days past the baby’s due date, Amrita went to the hospital where she received a digital exam.
“That exam was very painful. Afterwards, I felt off. I couldn't describe it but I didn’t feel right,” Amrita said. Her blood pressure was high during the exam so they sent her to L & D to be monitored. “My blood pressure came down, they took blood and everything seemed okay, so I was sent home. The one thing I do remember is that I had bad back pain almost instantly after the digital exam.”
That night, Amrita awoke with severe back pain which, never having a baby before, she thought was labor. After a long delivery, Amrita found herself confused and helpless in the midst of a chaotic delivery room. After an emergency c-section and a failed attempt to stabilize Nola’s heartbeat, Amrita was put into a deep sleep so she would not have to be awake for what came next.
“They had tried to get Nola’s heart beating for about 30 minutes without success, and at this point brain damage was imminent,” Geoff, Amrita’s husband said. “So in the space of less than an hour I had gone from waiting expectantly for this baby we had prepared the last nine months for to having to decide whether to terminate her life.”
Days later, Amrita and Geoff received news that the death of their baby was due to a massive infection of GBS, that must have occurred within 48 hours of delivery; the same time as the digital exam. This inspired Amrita and Geoff to learn more about GBS and the potential harm that it has on pregnant woman across the world.
A few years later, Amrita got the idea to create GBS window decals in order to spread awareness about the dangers of group B strep. “I didn’t know anything about GBS before she died,” Amrita said. “I wanted to do something that people would see and maybe ask about or look up on their own.”
Amrita’s GBS window decals are a good way to start the conversation about how to prevent Group B Strep in pregnant woman. “I wish people knew how dangerous it really can be,” Amrita said. “Anything that will get people talking about GBS is a good thing. Women and men need to know what it is and how to protect themselves and their babies.”
Amrita’s window decals can be ordered at gbsi.me/decals and the in-depth story about Nola’s delivery from the perspective of Amrita’s husband, Geoff, can be read at gbsi.me/GBSINola.
Watch this video to see how Laura started her conversation through awareness ribbons she made to honor her grandson's battle with GBS.
On Aug. 14, 2017, Laura Oakley, became a grandma. During her pregnancy, Leo’s mother received regular prenatal care and had what would seem like a normal pregnancy. She even tested negative for Group B Strep during her check-ups. To everyone’s delight Leonidas Nehemiah Oakley, or as Laura affectionately calls him, her “angel baby,” was born perfectly healthy.
However, when Leo was 17 days old he became lethargic and refused to eat. Leo’s parents took him to the hospital where he was immediately diagnosed with and treated for meningitis, sepsis and late-onset Group B Strep. The damage to Leo’s brain was too severe and on Sept. 23, 2017 he was removed from life support at just 6 weeks old.
When asked what she wishes people knew about GBS, Leo’s grandma, Laura, said, “Everything! From prevention to treatment. Anything that could pose this devastating of a risk to our babies should be discussed at length by medical providers with all expecting parents.”
After losing her grandson, Laura wanted to honor his battle with GBS. She created awareness ribbons that people could easily place on bags, clothes or other items that would start a conversation and bring awareness to Group B Strep. After her grandson’s diagnosis, Laura said she was, “ ... shocked by the lack of information and research available regarding GBS.”
With the help of people like Laura, we at GBSI want to change that. For Laura, #StartTheGBSConversation means, “ … that by sharing my Little Leo's legacy, I can help create awareness and inspire research to protect the beautiful babies of the future and honor those angels we couldn't save.”
For instructions on how to make your own GBS awareness ribbons, please visit gbsi.me/makeGBSribbons
A common practice among obstetricians and midwives is what is known as “membrane stripping” or “membrane sweeping.” When a pregnant woman is close to or past her baby’s due date, some obstetricians and midwives will forcibly separate the fetal membranes (“bag of waters”) from the uterine lining in hopes of inducing labor. This is sometimes done without the patient’s consent during the course of a cervical exam and without discussing any potential risk of infection prior to the procedure.
When Lynn Carmean was pregnant with her first child, her doctor made the decision to sweep her membranes as she was past her due date. Up until this point, Lynn had what she describes as an “uneventful” pregnancy. Her and her husband, Kyle decided to keep their baby’s gender a surprise. She was tested for GBS during the pregnancy and the results were negative. She even had fetal nonstress tests and ultrasounds to check on the baby once she was past the due date. All was well.
After having her membranes swept, Lynn went into labor within 24 hours. She had decided to have a natural water birth and her midwife monitored her heart throughout labor. At some point during the process, Lynn’s midwife left and returned with nurses and doctors. “ … the whole vibe of the calm environment I was birthing in had changed,” she said.
Soon after the arrival of the doctors, Philomena “Mena” Rose Carmean, Lynn and Kyle’s baby girl was born. But the doctors immediately began working to revive Philomena as she was non-responsive. The doctors failed to revive her.
“As we were left crushed, devastated with empty arms missing our baby girl, all we could do was wonder ‘why’?,” Lynn said.
The Carmeans immediately wanted answers. What had happened to their daughter? After receiving an autopsy report and a placental exam, the couple was told that, “ … one of the factors that were identified as the cause of death was that Mena had sepsis, with group B strep detected in her body,” Lynn said.
Lynn wanted more information, so she scoured the internet, which brought her to the Group B Strep International website. “ … one of the only websites that I came across with information on this infection was the GBS International site and we were able to see that we were not the only parents who had a child stillborn as a result of GBS,” she said. The couple was not alone in their search for answers and support.
Lynn felt as though she and her husband were only somewhat informed of the risk of membrane stripping and GBS and the couple was unaware of the possibility of testing negative for GBS but actually being GBS positive during labor and delivery.
Soon after she lost Mena, Lynn, an artist, painted a picture of a rose in honor of her daughter. After Mena’s third birthday, she wanted to do something special.
“I thought the best way to do so would be to donate to a cause that is obviously very important to us and bring attention to this disease that people, parents, don’t seem to have much familiarity with but should,” she said.
Lynn decided to take her original rose painting and turn it into a beautiful tote that she could sell to raise money for GBSI. With the support of her family and friends, Lynn blew her $400 dollar goal away by raising $1500 dollars to donate to the organization.
When asked what #starttheGBSconversation means to her, Lynn said, “It means getting more people involved in recognizing GBS as a public health matter with life-threatening consequences and raising awareness and funding for research to one day develop a vaccine so no other child, parent or family has to suffer like our family and so many others have.”
To purchase one of these beautiful totes in honor of Mena, please visit Lynn's page on Etsy HERE.
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