Group B Strep awareness: our story again

July is group B strep awareness month so I thought I would re-share our experience of group B strep below, with a few edits:AntibioticsOur daughter had group B streptococcus (group B strep). She could have died.

Back in November 2015, I gave birth to a ‘healthy’ baby girl. All seemed well to start with. I had the ‘normal’ after-delivery experience which I didn’t have with our son, where the midwife offered me a cup of tea! Amazing!

Unfortunately after several hours things were no longer so amazing. An hour or so after hubby had left to get some food and sleep, our daughter started grunting and turned purple and cold. The midwife checked her over and spoke to a paediatrician who took her to the Special Care Baby Unit for oxygen, a chest x-ray, tests and observation. She was also put on antibiotics in case she had an infection. Later that morning I went to see her. She was in an incubator but no longer on oxygen and after a few hours was allowed back on the post natal ward with me. She’d need to complete 48 hours of antibiotics.

The following day she had been less interested in feeding and appeared more poorly. That evening we were given the news that she did indeed have an infection and she would be moved back to special care to complete a 7-day course of antibiotics. She would also need a lumbar puncture to allow them to test further. She was back in an incubator and would be fed my expressed breast milk by tube. I took the news very hard and unfortunately hubby had just left to take our son home for dinner.

I was well cared for and encouraged to get discharged from the post natal ward the following day so I could move onto special care to be with our daughter. Once this went through, hubby and I carried my bags down to special care where we were given further test results. Our daughter had septicaemia caused by group B strep (more info below). She would need to complete 14 days of antibiotics. We wouldn’t be going home for at least another week and a half.

It was devastating news. The lumbar puncture was to find out if she had developed meningitis and if the infection had got to her brain. I asked not to be told what the outcome might be. Hubby went home and looked online to find out more about group B strep. As did the rest of our families. I knew it was serious but I didn’t know how serious. I knew she was very poorly and I think I knew on some level that she could die but I hadn’t acknowledged it. That would have been too much.

One thing I really struggled with was that the infection was passed to our daughter from me. I spun myself in circles feeling guilty for making her poorly.

On top of the news that our daughter was so poorly and there could be several side effects, I was separated from hubby and our son. They came in every day to visit – hubby sometimes on his own so we could talk about things, pray, cry and cuddle. Friends and family visited too. But it was very lonely at night. And I was living off sandwiches, soup and ready meals.

After a few days our daughter was declared well enough to room in with me. She had been feeding well without the tube and her vitals were stable so she moved in. I had to take her back to the nursery for antibiotics and observations, and we were given a ‘day room’ to hang out in so we weren’t stuck in my room during the day, but it meant she woke me up in the night to be fed rather than a nurse knocking on the door. It was good practice for coming home.

Praise God, the lumbar puncture results came back clear and her infection levels came down! We came home once she had completed her two-week course of antibiotics.

Sometimes we just carry on as if nothing ever happened but I have been known to look at our daughter and cry tears of joy because she is alive. It was only when I got home that I discovered how serious group B strep is and found out weeks later that hubby was taking videos of her in her incubator not just because she is our daughter, but because she could have died.

During her first two years, our daughter will have regular check ups at the hospital to check for side effects from the infection. So far her check ups have revealed that she is developing normally. Every milestone that she reaches – smiling, rolling over, giggling at her brother – we thank God for. Not that we didn’t with our son, but we are actively looking out for things that might not be considered ‘normal’. Not knowing what the future holds for her means we have to trust God even more.

I cannot adequately describe the range of emotions we went through. Elation that our daughter was born safely, with no complications this time and excellent midwifery care. Confusion after she was taken away to be checked over in special care. Concern as she remained in special care. Shock at her test results. Relief as she was discharged and we came home to our new normality. God gave me all that I needed during that time and I learned what it means to really cry out to him in prayer. I also felt so looked after by friends and family, and knowing people were providing food for the boys at home was such a relief!

What is group B strep? Well there’s not a lot of information out there. The group B strep support website provides some of the following information. It’s “a normal bacterium which colonises between 20-30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects”. There is a one in 300 risk that a baby will develop group B strep if its mother is carrying it. Group B strep is the most common cause of infection in newborn babies, however many babies are born to women carrying group B strep but do not catch the infection for some reason.

I had heard of group B strep through online pregnancy websites but I had only read the words, not what it meant. I had no idea that so many women carry it, that it was life-threatening or that you could be tested for it. To have the test done privately it costs £35, however the test would cost the NHS £11 and could provide it at no cost to pregnant women. One of my friends actually got tested after we announced on facebook that our daughter had been born and had group B strep. As well as the support website, there is a petition to get all pregnant women tested as if you are a carrier, you can have intravenous antibiotics during labour to try to prevent it being passed to your baby. If we decide to have any more children, I will have antibiotics during labour because our daughter had the infection.

It’s very confusing because group B strep seems to come and go. You could have it today but it could have gone in four weeks when you’re due to give birth. And vice versa. That, and the number of babies affected by it, means it is not necessarily cost effective for the NHS to test all pregnant women. Plus all of the antibiotics potentially unnecessarily being pumped into pregnant women in case they pass group B strep on… There is a helpful section on the NCT website about this here.

Well after months of pondering, I have signed the petition for women to be tested. Even now, 7 months later, I still think about what happened. I am so grateful that our daughter seems to have come through it unscathed but I know other women will lose their children to group B strep. If we can stop that from happening, let’s try.

Original post published 16 March 2016

Our daughter and group B strep

Apologies that it’s been so quiet over here lately. I’ve been rather busy being a mum of two – we had a little girl at the end of November!

I wrote a draft of this post a few weeks after she was born but was too scared to post it. It’s very personal and there are areas of debate about it, but last week a friend encouraged me to share our experience and another friend admitted they hadn’t realised how serious the situation was. So clearly it needs to be made more public. Here goes…

Our daughter had group B streptococcus (group B strep). She could have died.

I had a quick labour and much better birth experience than with our son. All seemed well to start with. I had the ‘normal’ after-delivery experience which I didn’t have with our son, where the midwife offered me a cup of tea! Amazing!

Unfortunately after several hours things were no longer so amazing. An hour or so after hubby had left to get some food and sleep, our daughter started grunting and turned purple and cold. The midwife checked her over and spoke to a paediatrician who took her to the Special Care Baby Unit for oxygen, a chest x-ray, tests and observation. She was also put on antibiotics in case she had an infection. Later that morning I went to see her. She was in an incubator but no longer on oxygen and after a few hours was allowed back on the post natal ward with me. She’d need to complete 48 hours of antibiotics.

The following day she had been less interested in feeding and appeared more poorly. That evening we were given the news that she did indeed have an infection and she would be moved back to special care to complete a 7-day course of antibiotics. She would also need a lumbar puncture to allow them to test further. She was back in an incubator and needed to be fed by tube. I took the news very hard and unfortunately hubby had just left to take our son home for dinner.

I was well cared for and encouraged to get discharged from the post natal ward the following day so I could move onto special care to be with our daughter. Once this went through, hubby and I carried my bags down to special care where we were given further test results. Our daughter had septicaemia caused by group B strep (more info below). She would need to complete 14 days of antibiotics. We wouldn’t be going home for at least another week and a half.

It was devastating news. The lumbar puncture was to find out if she had developed meningitis and if the infection had got to her brain. I asked not to be told what the outcome might be. Hubby went home and looked online to find out more about group B strep. As did the rest of our families. I knew it was serious but I didn’t know how serious. I knew she was very poorly and I think I knew on some level that she could die but I hadn’t acknowledged it. That would have been too much.

One thing I really struggled with was that the infection was passed to our daughter from me. I spun myself in circles feeling guilty for making her poorly.

On top of the news that our daughter was so poorly and there could be several side effects, I was separated from hubby and our son. They came in every day to visit – hubby sometimes on his own so we could talk about things, pray, cry and cuddle. Friends and family visited too. But it was very lonely at night. And I was living off sandwiches, soup and ready meals.

After a few days our daughter was declared well enough to room in with me. She had been feeding well without the tube and her vitals were stable so she moved in. I had to take her back to the nursery for antibiotics and observations, and we were given a ‘day room’ to hang out in so we weren’t stuck in my room during the day, but it meant she woke me up in the night to be fed rather than a nurse knocking on the door. It was good practice for coming home.

Praise God, the lumbar puncture results came back clear and her infection levels came down! We came home once she had completed her two-week course of antibiotics.

Since then we have been adjusting to life as a family of four. It’s incredibly stressful at times and incredibly incredible at others. Sometimes we just carry on as if nothing ever happened but I have been known to look at our daughter and cry tears of joy because she is alive. I struggle to talk about what happened. It was only when I got home that I discovered how serious group B strep is and found out weeks later that hubby was taking videos of her in her incubator not just because she is our daughter, but because she could have died.

During her first year, our daughter will have regular check ups at the hospital to check for side effects from the infection. She has already had one check up which went well. Every milestone that she reaches – her first smile, her first giggle, kicking her legs, looking around the room when she hears a voice – we thank God for. Not that we didn’t with our son, but we are actively looking out for things that might not be considered ‘normal’. Not knowing what the future holds for her means we have to trust God even more.

I cannot adequately describe the range of emotions we went through. Elation after our daughter being born safely, with no complications this time and excellent midwifery care. Confusion after she was taken away to be checked over in special care. Concern as she remained in special care. Shock at her test results. Relief as she was discharged and we came home to our new normality. God gave me all that I needed during that time and I learned what it means to really cry out to him in prayer. I also felt so looked after by friends and family, and knowing people were providing food for the boys at home was such a relief!

So there you go, that’s what happened and that is why I haven’t been blogging lately. I hope to blog occasionally about the random things I used to blog about!

What is group B strep? Well there’s not a lot of information out there. It’s “a normal bacterium which colonises between 20-30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects” (from GBSS website). The reported facts differ but it doesn’t appear to affect many babies per year (300 on one website, 700 on another!). Many babies are born to women carrying group B strep but do not catch the infection for some reason.

I had heard of group B strep through online pregnancy websites but I had only read the words, not what it meant. I had no idea that so many women carry it or that it was life-threatening. There is a support group and there is a campaign to get all pregnant women tested as if you are a carrier, you can have intravenous antibiotics during labour to try to prevent it being passed to your baby. If we decide to have any more children, I will have antibiotics during labour because our daughter had the infection.

It’s very confusing because group B strep seems to come and go. You could have it today but it could have gone in four weeks when you’re due to give birth. And vice versa. That, and the number of babies affected by it, means it is not cost effective for the NHS to test all pregnant women. It is routine in some other countries to test pregnant women but this hasn’t reduced the incidences by much.

Given my baby girl was affected by group B strep, you might think I’d be out there lobbying for all pregnant women to be screened. However, I can see where the NHS is coming from. I know that might sound awful because I know that babies get very sick if they get group B strep and some die. Really, I know! It pains me to say it because if I had been tested, my daughter would never have got poorly. But I don’t know the way around it. Private testing is available but there doesn’t seem to have been enough research on group B strep, or not enough available. And it’s definitely not a well-known illness.

I absolutely endorse the support groups for trying to get more information and research. And I’m definitely not against testing!

Date night

Do you have a ‘date night’ with your spouse?

We used to go out on ‘dates’ when we were going out and engaged. We’d go out for dinner or to the cinema if our student loans could stretch to it, or we’d cook or bake for each other or go for a walk. Time alone together. Lovely.

A couple of years after we got married, a couple we knew told us that they had a date night because they were so busy with seeing friends, church commitments, study, etc that they could go for weeks without spending any quality time together. At that stage that wasn’t a problem for us, but soon after having our son we realised our need of a date night, too.

Our evenings were filling up with admin, house-hunting (at the moment), housework, sport, church commitments, etc so we decided that we would make sure one night a week was our date night. We made it a week night because the weeks can be so busy and fly by, it’s nice to have an evening to stop. Plus it means we don’t feel guilty about seeing friends or family at the weekend. Our date night is generally a Thursday but it can be flexible, so long as there is one night that we can spend together.

Some of our friends spend some time discussing the good points and bad points of their relationship over the previous week. We’re not that structured but we are not allowed to do any admin once our son is in bed. We might enjoy something nice to eat, sometimes we watch a film, sometimes we talk about things that need talking about. We rarely do anything that’s specifically romantic! Occasionally we’ll play a board game and if, my parents are visiting, sometimes they babysit and we go out for dinner.

Setting this time aside is really helpful. If you need to talk about something that is important but requires a bit of thought beforehand, it’s great. You know Thursday is coming up and can prepare. For example, when our son was nearly 18 months old we started talking about when we might be ready to try for another baby. It was a topic which required a lot of thought, talking and prayer.

It’s also just helpful to know that you have one night in the week when you can spend time together, (hopefully) uninterrupted. It doesn’t mean you have to end up in the bedroom (sorry to my now cringing parents), it’s just time together. Once kids are on the scene you realise how precious that time alone together is because most of your awake time is shared with them too!

So if you don’t have a date night and feel like you hardly see your spouse and are overwhelmed with busyness, try one. Get the diaries or smartphone calendars out and work out one night next week that you can spend together. It doesn’t have to be flashy. It doesn’t have to be romantic. It can just be eating a meal together with no distractions or watching a film you really want to watch. The key is quality time together!

Happy Easter

Easter is great, isn’t it? Two four-day weeks and a four-day weekend in the middle!

Plus spring is just around the corner, warmer weather, flowers are budding, chocolate eggs are being given, yummy roast lamb is being served!

I remember as a child going to church on Good Friday and thinking it was weird people celebrating that Jesus died on a cross. But for Christians Easter is about why Jesus died and what it achieved, to rescue us and by rising again defeating death. That’s why today is Good Friday and we consider Easter to be happy!

This little video summarises the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death, leaving you to consider what you think about it all. Have a look, and I hope you have a happy Easter discovering the real message behind Easter.

“Mummy run 7k”

What is it that makes running so brilliant?

One of the greatest things about running at the moment is stretching when I get home with our son copying me! It’s very cute. He also says ‘Mummy run’ every morning, even though I don’t go every morning, and when he spots my running gear hanging up to dry. And I taught him to say ‘5k’ and ‘7k’ when I had run that far. Hee hee.

Having read Running Made Easy again I thought I’d try a longer run on Saturday morning. I’d managed to get out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (a slightly shorter run on Friday as I woke up late) so I thought I would be up to it. In preparation I thought that I should perhaps eat something small before I left and drink a bit more than usual, so I planned to go out about half an hour after I’d got up. Thanks to the lighter mornings I was awake at 6.40a.m. and headed downstairs with Cover to Cover, drank some water, ate one of these yummy date and oat bars from Deliciously Ella’s blog, and read the Bible.

This was a wonderful way to start my Saturday! The house was still quiet for about 10 minutes before our son woke up. After giving him breakfast and waking hubby up, I was out of the door. It was really quite windy on Saturday and I had a bottle of water with me which meant if I got thirsty I had to stop and walk – I couldn’t work out how to co-ordinate keeping my breathing going whilst running and drinking! It’s weird getting used to carrying something when you’re running, too.

Well, I amazed myself and ran 7.1k (4.4 miles). I don’t think I’ve ever run that far before. I ran to a local park, ran round it twice, then ran home. The run home is uphill but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I even felt I could have run further so on Saturday I’m considering running round the park three times, which would make the whole run 8.8k (5.5 miles)!

After all of that fun and returning on such a high, I came home planning to make poached eggs for us all for breakfast (3rd breakfast for our hungry little boy). But I was sent to the shower and hubby made them instead – amazing soft poached eggs with black pepper on home made wholewheat toast with butter! Good work, hubby.

I seem to be getting fitter quicker than when I used to run a few years ago. Maybe I’ve kept a bit of fitness from swimming last year. It’s not necessarily about getting round the whole route without any walks, but I don’t remember ever getting round my old route without a walk. Perhaps I didn’t go out as often. Apart from Saturdays, I used to go out after work which is strange as I’m a morning person. I imagine the thought of going before work seemed crazy, whereas now it’s like running from home to work (I’m a stay-at-home mum)!

Sweet reading

A few weeks ago we cancelled our TV licence. I was a bit apprehensive when hubby suggested it but I have to say I am far more productive without it!

For a start, I’ve been reading more. I’ve made the most of our library by borrowing books on potty training, Menorca for an upcoming holiday, and three (yes, three!) books on sugar. But I’ve also started re-reading Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes and dug out my copy of Running Made Easy by Susie Whalley & Lisa Jackson for a few tips.

Books
Books on the go

As a child I loved reading and made the most of the little library in our town, but since leaving university I haven’t been registered at one. We registered our son at our local library to help encourage a love of reading so I also signed up. Cutting the TV licence has given me much more time, especially when our son is napping, so I am trying to get my brain in gear by reading.

It hadn’t really occurred to me to read books on sugar. I’m just doing the sugar free thing really, but actually it’s nice to have scientific evidence to back me up if people ask why I’m doing it and, often, how long for. If you read the research, you’ll probably stick to it long-term, too.

The first book about sugar that I read was The Sugar Solution by Sari Harrar (I was looking for The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman and got confused). I read it in a couple of days and it’s more about diabetes and adjusting diet and lifestyle than why sugar is bad for us. Some of the recipes include sugar!

The other two books were Sweet Poison by David Gillespie and Fat Chance: The bitter truth about sugar by Dr. Robert Lustig. I first heard about these two books on Eve Schaub’s blog which I read last year and so I was delighted when I found them on the shelf in our library. I have even bought my own copy of Fat Chance because I want to highlight it and devour it again.

Sweet Poison is written by a normal Australian guy trying to work out why he wasn’t losing weight. He found a whole load of research into the actual effects of sugar to our bodies and he lost 40kg by ditching sugar.

Fat Chance is written by a doctor who confirms everything the other books say! It’s the hardest one to read in many ways because there’s more biochemistry in it, but because I’d read the other two first I had gradually started to understand it all so by the time I got to this one, it had all started to make sense. Dr. Lustig is American so most of what he says refers to the American lifestyle but we’re not that different here in the UK.

There are already reviews and summaries of the books online, for example The Telegraph reviews Sweet Poison here and Fat Chance here, so I won’t bother going into all of the science here. For a more thorough understanding you really need to read the research and the books, but the gist of it is that fructose is a toxin. It is found naturally in fruit where it is accompanied by fibre, but table sugar (half glucose, half fructose and found in most processed food) and even fruit juice come without the fibre which makes it bad for us. The research shows how it leads to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.

David Gillespie advocates ditching sugar altogether, whereas Dr. Lustig suggests limiting it. They both argue that we need to eat more fibre. Processed food lacks fibre and fibre is essential for our digestion. Dr. Lustig explains in his book why we need to eat more fibre, and how exercise can also help. It was so interesting to read why we need fibre and why exercise helps, rather than being told ‘eat whole grains’ or ‘exercise three times a week.’

So, all in all, I am a big fan of the local library again. I am now almost knowledgeable about the effects of sugar! I stopped eating sugar because setting boundaries like having one piece of cake a week didn’t work for me – once I’d tasted it, I wanted more of it. I don’t plan to return to eating sugar any time soon. I’m enjoying sugar free life! I’m no longer tempted by cake or chocolate and, of course, I now know the science behind why sugar is bad for us.

There’s a wealth of information available on a whole lot of topics in your local library. Make the most of it! I find it much more rewarding to read a book than read an article on the internet, however convenient that might be. Although I like to own a book if I like it so that I can go back to it.

Lent challenge

Do you give anything up, or take something up, for Lent?

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, which is the day after Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, and falls next Wednesday (18th February) this year. It is traditionally the 6-week Christian preparation period leading up to Easter.

All sorts of people give things up – chocolate, cake, biscuits, even facebook – or take things up – like doing this 40 acts challenge – for Lent. Some years I would give up chocolate. It was worth giving it up because at the end of Lent I’d have a mountain of Easter eggs to gorge on.

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You could try giving up sugar for Lent

I’ve been thinking long and hard about giving you this challenge. I had a photo taken and everything in order to challenge my readers to give up sugar for Lent. I had a draft post listing the advantages of doing so. I had links to my favourite sugar free recipes.

And then I decided that actually, whilst it might be interesting and potentially life-changing to give up sugar, it would be even more interesting and potentially life-changing if you read about Jesus’ life and works leading up to the first Easter.

So, by all means give the no sugar thing a whirl, but my real challenge to you is to read one of the accounts of Jesus’ life this Lent and find out why Easter is so important to Christians. Maybe you have a Bible lying around at home, or one of those red Gideon New Testament & Psalms. Pick it up and have a read of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John’s account of Jesus’ life. Or read them all! You can read Mark’s gospel online here. Find out what Easter is really about. It might just change your life.