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BLOG: ''Alert Strep B'' - Granada Reports' Caroline Whitmore and her experience of Group B Strep

Caroline and baby Joe Photo: Caroline Whitmore

My son turned one last month - but ‘Baby Joe’ as he’s affectionately known by his big sister Hollie, is lucky to be here. I know only too well that things could have been so different.

My waters broke three weeks early at 4am on the 7th February2016. After regular contractions through the night we set off for the hospitalat 11am only to be told to get more comfortable and wait it out at home.

After labouring at home for 28 hours, we decided it was time to return to the hospital as now my contractions were every 3 minutes- my husband didn’t fancy bringing our baby into the world on his own!! We arrived at the hospital at 6.30am and by this time I was in pain and wanted the baby to arrive pretty soon!

We were shown to our room and I was desperate for the midwife to tell me how far on I actually was because I felt like the baby was almost here. The midwife seemed to be taking ages to go through all my notes to the point where I was getting quite impatient (I was in labour) and kept saying to my husband ‘ask her to get there quicker, can she not see I’m in pain here!'

She then said something that completely floored me: “I see you’re strep B positive”, to which I replied “not to my knowledge”. She then brought my notes over and a big red sticker was in my notes saying ALERT STREP B. This had been popped into my notes in October 2015 and no-one had thought to tell me about it. I started to panic as my good friend who was pregnant at the same time had found out she was strep B positive so I knew all about the risks. I knew that once your waters break, that is when the baby is most likely to pick up the infection and I started working out that the baby had been susceptible to the infection for 28 hours.

I was asking if I could have a C section thinking this would be safer but it was too late, I was too far gone. They gave me antibiotics but again said they thought it would be too late and it turns out it was, as my beautiful baby boy Joe Steven was born at 8.33am just two hours after we arrived at the hospital.

Credit: Caroline Whitmore

Joe was treated with antibiotics immediately to get them in his system and his blood was taken to check the levels at his birth. He fed well at first which was a positive sign. They told us to be aware of infection and to not pass baby Joe around too much. I started to get quite panicked when his colour seemed to change and go quite blue about eight hours after he was born. They checked his blood markers and they came back very, very high- they had risen dramatically in the last few hours. They said the fact they had risen so quickly meant we needed to up his dose of antibiotics and keep him in the hospital.

They would regularly wake him up to take his blood and give him his antibiotics. They suggested taking him away so I didn’t have to see them prodding and poking him but i didn’t ever want him on his own so I held his hand all the way.

Unfortunately despite regular doses his infection markers kept increasing meaning the infection was getting worse. They came to us and said he had to be given a lumbar puncture almost immediately. They explained that this is where a needle has to be inserted into the lower part of the spine to test for conditions affecting the brain.

It was a frightening first week for baby Joe and family Credit: Caroline Whitmore

They told us they were trying to rule out meningitis. We wouldn't have the true results of this for 72 hours and as you can imagine that was a really worrying time. As we waited they had to also treat him for jaundice- a condition I know is very common but it just felt like he had been through enough. Thankfully the test for meningitis came back negative and his blood cultures started to drop showing signs that the infection was responding to the treatment.

We were over the moon and after spending more than a week in hospital they allowed us to take baby Joe home. We were expecting the same feeling we had when we brought our daughter Hollie home three years earlier but we both felt deflated and exhausted from the past week. However we were thankful we were bringing him home at all.

Credit: Caroline Whitmore

We will never know what the infection was - the doctors were careful to never give it a name, saying that google can be a frightening tool when you’re in this situation! They did send us home with leaflets about Strep B and it was always in the back of our minds that he could get ill again quite quickly. We didn’t want to wish his life away but the statistics show that after three months babies are much stronger so this was something for us to aim for.

I’m gobsmacked that this test isn’t offered to women towards the end of their pregnancy and feel it would save lives and save lots of heartache in the long run. I know now you can get the test done privately, which I believe is only around £35, which i wasn’t aware of during pregnancy. If this blog can raise awareness of this infection then it’s been worthwhile sharing my story.

I have never been so thankful for someone doing their job properly and thoroughly (especially because I wanted the midwife to hurry up) because if that midwife hadn’t have done that when we first arrived at the hospital this could be a very different ending.

Joe is now one, he’s happy but most of all he’s healthy.

Joe is now happy and healthy! Credit: Caroline Whitmore

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