The first few weeks after having a baby are happy, tiring, filled with love and probably some tears too. They can be stressful but a vital and important time for bonding with baby and adjusting to your new life together.
Those wonderful first few weeks were taken away from me when I had my son, Austin.
My labour and birth were textbook normal, I was on the delivery suite and had an epidural. The midwives monitored me regularly as my daughter had only been born 14 months before via emergency C section and there were concerns my stiches would abrupt. But they didn’t and Austin was born naturally at a healthy 7lb8oz.
The day after Austin was born, he was very unsettled, he would constantly want feeding and threw up a lot of bloody mucus. This was alarming and I insisted a doctor look him over. He was given a brief check up and the doctor determined he was a ‘healthy newborn’.
As you can imagine, that didn’t sit right with me. Despite feeling something was wrong with him, we were discharged from hospital. However my strong maternal instinct insisted he wasn’t well and I messaged my community midwife, asking her to come over.
Moments after she arrived, Austin had a fit and stopped breathing.
My midwife sprang into action and conducted life-saving CPR until the ambulance arrived, if she hadn’t had been there, my gorgeous little boy wouldn’t be here today.
After a terrifying time spent in A&E, Paediatric Intensive care and the Children’s centre ward, we discovered he had Group B Strep which had led to Meningitis and Sepsis.
I’d never heard of Group B Strep before.
This wasn’t an oversight of the care I’d had, it wasn’t my amazing community midwife’s fault, it wasn’t the hospital’s fault or the responsibility of the NCT group I attended. Group B Strep just isn’t included in the government’s guidelines for educating mothers to be. But it should be.
Babies who have suffered a Group B Strep infection often contract Meningitis and Sepsis because of it. Austin was given a 50% chance of having a permanent learning disability due to his Meningitis, it was just a waiting game once he had finished his antibiotics to see how he developed and progressed.
Thankfully Austin is thriving now. He was one of the lucky GBS babies but not all are as fortunate.
If I’d have been informed of the dangers of Group B Strep, and told that for just £40 I could buy a test to do at home to determine whether I was carrying this infection, the first 6 weeks would have been spent in our loving family home, and not in hospital.
After an extensive investigation into why the hospital didn’t pick up on his illness, the results showed that if any action were to be taken, it’s that the midwives and doctors should listen to mother’s instincts.
My hope is that by telling Austin’s story, as much as I can, more mother’s will find out about Group B Strep before it’s too late. Trust your instincts, you know your baby better than anyone else in the world.
GROUP B STREP: THE FACTS
- Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a normal bacterium carried by 20–40% of adults, usually in the gut, and for up to 25% of women, in the vagina.
- In adults there are usually no symptoms of the infection, but GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborns.
- Two babies a day develop GBS and one baby a week dies from it. One baby a week survives with long term disabilities.
- GBS testing is not currently available on the NHS, but a home testing kit to determine whether you have it costs just £40.
- If you are diagnosed as being GBS positive, the only treatment you’ll need is antibiotics every 4 hours during labour. Your baby will be monitored for a period of time afterwards and potentially given antibiotics too.
- The UK doesn’t routinely test for GBS, but many other countries do including Australia, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA.
Group B Strep Support works to raise awareness of GBS and campaigns for all pregnant women to have easy access to the test. For more information, visit https://gbss.org.uk.
A Guest Blog from Nicola Tierney
Nicole Tierney is a full time sole parent to Mia (2) and Austin (1), full time Advertising student at the University of Gloucestershire and likes to write in her (hard to come by) free time.
When Austin was born he contracted Group B Strep which led to Meningitis and Sepsis and she is now campaigning to raise awareness of GBS to help prevent more families suffering what her family went through. You can contact Nicola at Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org.