"There were plenty of tears and worrying moments" - Clare's story

Our little boy was born at 40+3, weighing in at a standard 7 pounds 10 oz, after a very speedy but natural two-and-a-half-hour labour and delivery during the early hours. We were so thrilled to snuggle him - our second child, Caleb - and simply couldn’t wait to take him home, presumably later that day.

At around eight hours old, however, once settled on the postnatal ward, things took a turn for the worst. Caleb seemed uninterested in feeding and on reflection, became rather pale and grey in complexion. His eyes appeared to have a glazed over expression and I noticed that his breathing had become laboured. Looking at his chest, his ribs were pinching/sucking in when he was breathing.

At 24 weeks into my pregnancy, I had some slight spotting and attended my local maternity assessment centre. Thankfully, nothing untoward was detected. I did however (on the advice of the midwife), take an ECM vaginal swab to detect for Strep B infection. A few days later, I was informed that I was Strep B positive (25% of pregnant women are). During labour, I was set to receive antibiotics through a cannula, to reduce the chances of my baby contracting an infection. Caleb had other ideas however, and unfortunately, I laboured far too quickly to receive any antibiotics. Caleb was flagged to be monitored for a 24-hour period. Just as I suspected that something wasn’t right on the postnatal ward, Caleb was checked by a midwife. His oxygen saturation levels had dropped.

This was when a call was made to the neonatal team. Naturally, I panicked. A pediatrician came to observe Caleb’s breathing. His oxygen saturation levels had dropped to the late 80s. Full term babies are typically around 96-100%. Caleb was in respiratory distress with suspected sepsis (Strep B infection).

What followed next was a whirlwind of emotions and the unknown. Caleb immediately received lifesaving antibiotics through a cannula into his tiny newborn veins. He was hooked up to a low flow oxygen nasal tube and we were informed that he was showing signs of irritability and a dislike of being handled, the markers of what we later dreadfully discovered, could be Strep B Bacterial Meningitis and Sepsis.

Fortunately, after around three days of Caleb receiving low flow oxygen on the neonatal unit, he was showing signs of improvement and most crucially, his infection markers were dropping. I do believe that this was due to very quick and responsive treatment by the neonatal team. Had Caleb not been flagged to receive monitoring, the situation could have been extremely serious and life threatening.

Caleb spent a total of 14 days on the neonatal ward, receiving antibiotics to treat his suspected Strep B Meningitis infection. There were plenty of tears and worrying moments, but we were so incredibly lucky that his health quickly improved. As I was also breastfeeding, I was fortunate to be able to stay beside him in transitional care throughout. We cannot thank the neonatal team enough for their care and diligence. It was such a huge learning curb and experience for our family.

Worryingly, a lot of pregnant women are unaware that a simple swab test at 35 weeks can pick up a Strep B positive result. With IV antibiotics in labour, most neonatal Strep B infections can be prevented.

We are so grateful for the neonatal support that we received and were delighted to take our baby home at two weeks old and join his older sister.