Alison Whitton, 29, is married to Paul and mum to Carrie, five, and Lorrie, three. Alison discovered she was a carrier of the infection Group B Streptococcus during her first pregnancy and soon realised her birth was going to be far from straightforward.
“I hadn’t heard about Group B Strep, or GBS, until I saw a feature on television when I was pregnant with Carrie. I asked my midwife about it and she told me, ‘Don’t be silly, you haven’t got it!’ I decided not to have the test for GBS but then a friend said she was having one and suggested I did too. It had taken me a while to get pregnant and I didn’t want to take any chances, so I sent off for a test from a private hospital using the details I saw on TV.
“I did the test at the recommended time, between 35 and 37 weeks, and it came back positive. I didn’t get much support from my midwife or GP, however – I had to research for myself on Group B Strep Support where I discovered that I’d need intravenous antibiotics during my labour to prevent GBS infecting my baby.
“My contractions started on my due date, on a Friday evening. I rang the hospital to tell them, and to say that I had GBS, and they told me to see how things went. By the next morning my contractions were every 10 minutes so I went to hospital but was only 1cm dilated and was told to go home until the contractions were every eight minutes.
“At 11pm on Sunday night the contractions were coming every eight minutes so we went back to hospital – but I was still only 1cm dilated. I stayed in hospital that night, had some pethidine for the pain and started on the GBS antibiotics.
“Five minutes after Paul had visited on the Monday morning, my waters broke and I was rushed to delivery. I demanded an epidural, which slowed everything down – which was lucky in a way, as if it hadn’t there wouldn’t have been time for all three doses of antibiotics. Unfortunately, though, the epidural only worked down one side. I had gas and air but this made me pass out between contractions. At about 6pm the midwives had to wake me up and say, ‘It’s time to push!’
Arrival at last
“Carrie was eventually born at 7pm, but I didn’t get to hold her for two hours. When my waters broke she’d swallowed some fluid and had to have her airways cleared by a paediatrician and the doctors also insisted on taking her away for a course of antibiotics. I was a bit upset by this, as I’d read that if you have three doses of antibiotics at the right stages in labour – which I did – the baby wouldn’t need any further treatment.
“When Carrie was brought back to me it broke my heart – her arm was strapped up with the tube coming out for the antibiotics. I was frightened to touch it but it was absolutely wonderful just to hold her at last. Paul and I both really wanted a girl, and the fact she was born on our wedding anniversary made it extra special.
Time to bond
“I had to stay in hospital for 48 hours while Carrie had more doses of antibiotics. Once we were home, I unfortunately had to give up breastfeeding within a couple of days because Carrie developed bad thrush in her mouth, which my midwife thought was caused by the heavy dose of antibiotics she had received. Despite this, however, I didn’t have any trouble bonding with her, which was what I was afraid of. She took well to bottle-feeding and it was great for Paul to have the chance to join in a cuddle and feed. She’s started school and now has a little sister, Lorrie to play with.
“To look at Carrie now, you wouldn’t know anything had gone wrong at the birth. She’s absolutely fine, developing well and is very happy. And she now has a beautiful little sister, Lorrie, to play with.”
Find out more about GBS and where you can get a test