Group B Strep

When it comes to Miss L’s birthday I’m always a little melancholy.  I love celebrating her birthday and seeing her joy, but I also get horrific flashbacks to giving birth to her and the aftermath.  I probably should get some help, but it always feels to me like I’m being bit of a drama queen about it, stiff upper lip and all that.

So I’m hoping that writing about it his year will make it go away a bit?  So forgive me for whittering on, this will be a long post. I’ll fast forward through the labour 27 hours, 2 bottles of gas and air, 3 epidural’s, an emergency c-section and a bleed out and onto the worst bit.


My beautiful little girl was infected with a Group B Strep infection.

She wasn’t feeding that well and was making a weird snorting noise, to be honest being a first time mum I was more than a little clueless.  I’d seen a baby once from a distance, but that was about the extent of my experience.  I mentioned it to the nursing staff but they said it was ok, newborns feeding badly isn’t exactly unusual so I left it.  However by the time she was 30 hours old I needed some sleep, I’d been awake for 3 days at that point and close to utter collapse.  Thanks goodness I did, they took her from me and for the first time noticed something was wrong when they tried to feed her and she was rushed to the Special Care Baby Unit.

I’m forever thankful that as I’d had the labour from hell and was still in the hospital, if we’d gone home I think she’d have died because it was such a quick decline.  It turns out that if you have your waters broken and then are left in labour for over 24 hours, the baby can contract it.  The other way to get it is if you are a carrier as one in four women are and there is a test for it, but under the NHS it’s a bit hit or miss if you get it.  Ironically I’d actually had the test and tested negative the midwife told me later!

However I didn’t have a clue what Group B Strep was when I was woken in the middle of the night, by a doctor telling me that my baby needed a spinal tap as she had Group B and possibly meningitis, and did I have anyone who could be with me ‘in case of the worst’.   By the time I arrived in Special Care Unit (as quickly as I could shuffle down the corridor) I was welcomed by a really lovely nurse who sat me down and gave me a Polaroid picture of my daughter wired up to every conceivable piece of medical equipment.  When I asked why she explained they took pictures to give the mother something to ‘remember their child by’….at this point it sank in, my baby was probably going to die.  We’d already lost one baby through miscarriage and I refused to lose another who’d been perfectly healthy at birth and had caught an infection, you can imagine how I felt when I found out it was from me.

Thank God she’s a great little fighter, and she had excellent care by a very experienced group of medics and she pulled through to be the sassy little bright button she is today.  But it was needless, it shouldn’t have happened.   In the UK 700 babies are affected a year of whom 75 don’t make it and about 40 have serious long term problems such as blindness, deafness,  brain damage and long term learning difficulties. In the US that goes up to 8,000 babies a year and nearly 400 die. I think that this is totally unacceptable, and that women should be educated about the dangers. It wasn’t in any of the pre-birth courses I did and not really mentioned in any pregnancy magazines.

Here are some resources, please, please tell your pregnant friends I’d hate for anyone to go through what we did.

For more information go to

Sign the Petition on the Number 10 website (closes 11th March) asking for pregnant women to be screened

International Readers – Group B site

We were lucky,  but I realise it was more down to chance and still being in the hospital than anything else, it could have all ended differently and every day I’m thankful it wasn’t.

Thanks for listening, I’m feeling a bit better for getting it out of my system x

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  1. Crikey, what an amazing story. What a hellish birth!
    But do you know what? I look at that picture of that beeautiful litle girl and think all things happen for a reason and although it has left a scar in your heart, I’m betting you’ve loved that baby with such intensity.
    You’re right about the lack of knowledge. Sometimes I think it’s intentional on the part of the midwives because they don’t like you knowing too much so you can’t interfere.
    I wanted to know everything. Knowledge was power for me and if I were a pregnant mum to be I absolutely would want to be forewarned with this.
    Have you thought about putting this up on the British Mummy Bloggers site as there are a couple of pregnant bloggers on there (some first timers)?
    I will make sure I Twitter it too.

  2. I tested positive with both of my pregnancies and had the IV drip during labor. But, I knew nothing about what it would do to the child. When they mentioned the test to me and that I was positive they made it seem like no big deal. During labor I cursed the IV tube and hated that it was there – now…not so much.
    I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to you and your Lily (my daughter’s name is Lyllian :)), but I’m glad that it ended positively. Thank you for passing on the information that not all of us get.
    I hope writing this post brings you some peace.

  3. Your birth story is almost word for word the same as mine, except for the Group B strep. After having an almost identical birth experience plus three days without sleep in the hospital I begged to go home only for them to weigh my baby and find that she’d lost a lot of weight (and had been born small to start with due to problems with my placenta) because we were having problems feeding. I suspected something was wrong, but hadn’t been able to persuade a midwife to help me. So she too was rushed to the Special Care Baby Unit for a week until we’d established a proper feeding routine. We never did find out the cause of the problem.

    I mention all this because they also took a Polaroid of my daughter and I never knew why. And now I do. Wow, just wow.

    And if it’s any consolation it remains by far the worst experience of my life and thinking about even four years on still brings tears of fear and fury to my eyes..

  4. That’s great information, I had no idea babies could contact Strep B in this manner. Good job Lily, what a fighter!

  5. Oh MY!!! I’m so sorry for all of this drama to bring your little love into the world! I read and ate up every word of this post…so don’t apologize for the long post at all. It was fascinating, really (just sorry it was at your expense). Truth told I was (am) petrified to have kids. So many stories like yours, and I’ve never even heard of this whole Strep B thing. I am SO glad it all worked out and that the amazing young Lily is celebrating a birthday. Happy days ahead to all of you!

  6. Thanks for all your kind words, I’m feeling a bit better this morning having gotten out in writing.

    Tara – You’re right I’ll post it on the British Mummy Board!

    Kendra – I’m so pleased you got treatment – even if they didn’t explain what was happening! Lyllian is such a beautiful name x

    Paola – I’m so sorry that you had the same experience as me, I hate to think of anyone going through that. And you’re right even six years later I’m furious that it happened and how we needlessly suffered. I must admit it’s entirely put me off having more children.

    Laura – when you do have a baby and trust me they are so worth it, just make sure you’re as educated as you can be and you have supportive health care throughout. I know the US system is very different from the UK system, so I suspect you’ll be better off than we are x

  7. I’m glad the writing about it has helped. Hopefully it’ll help others too.

    I have heard of strep b but don’t really know too much about it, except they routinely test in America. I thought I read somewhere the tests are cheap too.

    It’s wonderful that you’ve now got a lovely little one to lessen, hopefully, the awful memories.

  8. Wow. How very scary. So happy that you and your little blessing both came out as stronger beings for having going through it. It’s such a neat thing that you are sharing your story and informing others.

  9. Liz, what an awful thing to have gone through. You are right that it is not commonly talked about. I read about about a year ago in a very frightening article in the Guardian. My friend was pregnant at the time and I hummed and hawed about whether to tell her about it. I decided against it, in the end, because I didn’t want to frighten her. But I think that was wrong, though, fortunately for her she didn’t have any problems.

    My daughter also spent a week in SCBU, for breathing problems (she was a month premature). It was a horrible. The photo we were given was to help the breastmilk come in. Looking at a photo of the baby is supposed to help you develop an emotional link that makes you lactate, as normally you have the baby right there for that purpose. But, yes, there’s also the other, sadder reason for having the photo.

    I didn’t look at her SCBU photos for about a year, only looking at the ones of her when we brought her home, with no tubes in her. But I have come to the point where I can look back and feel grateful, rather than angry and sad about her first week being spent in a box instead of my arms. Which is fortunate, as I shall be going through it all again (though hopefully without any problems, this time) later in the year. If I hadn’t come to terms with it all, I would be feeling very scared (still am a bit scared, of course).

  10. How frightening. I can’t even imagine. I was one of the lucky ones who was screened for it ahead of time, but I honestly had no idea how serious it could’ve been if my babies had gotten the Group B Strep. I was oblivious to that, but apparently my doctor was not.

    I’m so relieved for your happy ending. What a sweet photo of Lily as a newborn! Happy birthday to her. 🙂

  11. I’m sorry your little girl had such a rough start- (and you too!). I tested positive with 2 or 3 of my babies. I had c-sections, but they did the antibiotics just in case.

    I’m glad your little girl is well now! It is so scary to have a baby start out so sick! And the poloroid thing- that sounds awfull. How wonderfull that she is well now!