FRANKS ARRIVAL. OUR STORY, RAISING AWARENESS FOR GROUP B STREP
Updated: May 31, 2019
A bit of a different kind of post from me today. Quick note - If you are pregnant or trying for a baby, you might want to avoid reading birth stories!
As you will know from my Instagram, and previous blog posts, we were blessed with our first baby, Frank, on the 22nd June last year. After the perfect textbook pregnancy, I finished work for maternity leave convinced I was going to be early, and so excited to meet my little boy that it didn't even cross my mind that labour would be anything more than straightforward - so much so, that (after practising hypnobirthing techniques for most of my pregnancy), I was actually really looking forward to giving birth.
I went into early labour nearly 2 weeks before my due date, and after a couple of days of light contractions, I went into active labour on the Monday morning. I was planning on having a homebirth, so when I thought my waters could have started leaking, I popped into the hospital to be sure… they hadn't broken but after monitoring for a while I was told all was going well and I was definitely in labour (yay!). Anyway, I took myself home, called the husband and told him not to rush home but that things had started.
By that evening, we decided it was time to call out the midwife, who, when she arrived told me I was already 4cm dilated and that we would have a baby before the morning… I was thrilled. A few hours later I got in the pool… and a few hours later I was still there. After a while I got out and decided it wasn't really doing all that much for me, it seemed to be slowing down and I was starting to get tired (I'd had no sleep since the Saturday!)
On the Tuesday, I was still in labour at home when we had a call from the hospital - I'd had some swabs done when I was there and they were back… I had Group B Strep.
I didn't realise how serious it could be, I listened while they gave me all the information I needed to make a decision on our next move. Because I was in active labour, I needed IV antibiotics every 4 hours; we decided the sensible thing to do was to move to the birthing unit in Jessops Hospital. By Wednesday late morning, I was still only 5 cm dilated so they moved me from the birthing room up onto another ward and a different midwife. I think this is where the problem started, in the chaos of moving etc, I wasn't given my next few doses of antibiotics.
By late Wednesday evening, I had another visit, this time from a consultant who told me I had severe labour on-set pre eclampsia. My blood pressure had shot through the roof, and my kidneys and liver were failing… All I could think was, but how is this even happening, I feel fine?! I was told I would have to be admitted to the consultant led ward so they could monitor me, they were going to have to break my waters and induce my labour as it still wasn't progressing; my body was shutting down, and baby was getting grumpy. My relaxed, drug free hypnobirthing plan promptly flew out the window, I was advised to have an epidural to bring my blood pressure down and get some rest (which didn't work by the way... Because I hadn't planned on having any pain relief, I hadn't researched epidurals, so I didn't know that they actually don't work on some unfortunate people like me!!) and with another new midwife on Thursday morning, I finally got another shot of my GBS antibiotics.
After 84 hours in active labour, at 1.43pm on Thursday the 22nd June, I finally got to meet my beautiful little boy Frank.
We were on cloud 9, it hadn't been quite the straightforward labour I was expecting, but I still enjoyed every minute of it, and it had all been worth it. After that glorious first hour, a pediatrician came into the room to look at Frank, apparently he was grumbling, and they were concerned about his breathing. Next thing I knew, my husband was going one way with Frank to be "monitored" and I was going the other way to the high dependency unit, where they wanted to keep me until my kidneys and liver showed some signs of functioning normally after the pre-eclampsia. I declined the monitoring, I felt ok and I just wanted to go and find Frank. They told me where to find him… in neonatal.
I thought he was going for monitoring, so I wasn't even a little bit prepared for walking into intensive care to see my little boy in an incubator. The next few hours passed in a blur. I woke up the next morning at 5am, my 30th birthday and I was alone in a hospital bed without my little boy, I'm not going to lie, I've had better birthdays! I decided there was no point sitting feeling sorry for myself, so I took myself down to see Frank, and sit by his incubator, where I was allowed to hold him for just a short while. I finally managed to track down a consultant to try and get some idea of what was going on, never in a million years expecting to find out that Frank had Pneumonia, caused by the Group B Strep I had been carrying.
The next few days were all a bit of a haze, spent mostly just sitting in intensive care by his incubator, holding him when we could and trying to avoid all the machines he was hooked up to. It seemed like forever but he was only actually in there for 4 days before being moved into special care on day 5, and then the day after he was allowed to come up to the ward with me until we were both discharged a couple of days later.
Group B Strep is carried by around 25% of women, and the bacteria can be passed from the mother to the baby as they pass through the birth canal. Antibiotics given to the mother should be effective to prevent the infection from spreading, however for me this was not the case, and I will always wonder if those missed doses were to blame, or whether it would still have happened all the same. The UK is one of few countries in Europe that does not screen for GBS routinely during pregnancy, and a woman who is carrying the bacteria usually has no symptoms at all so is completely unaware she has it.
There are a number of reasons that are given by the NHS for not testing as standard, I am not sure whether I agree with them or not, and that is not the intention of this post… but I DO want to share this story in the hope of raising awareness. The NHS might not do the tests, but I have since found out that you can actually buy them online. They are available here and at only £35 (the test is free, the lab fee is £35) they are worth every penny if you are expecting, if only for peace of mind.
I… We… were some of the lucky ones… they found out in advance and were able to spot the problem early on before it got any worse. I would never have realised "grumbling" in a new born baby was a sign of breathing problems, had it not been for the fact the staff were aware I was carrying GBS our story could have been completely different; as it is for some, with heart breaking consequences.
I will forever be grateful to the NHS and the amazing midwives, consultants and nurses in the maternity wards and neonatal unit in Jessops for their incredible work. I can’t thank them enough for the wonderful care they gave to me and Frank during that first week, and I will never forget how lucky we are to have our beautiful little boy.