Saving babies from Group B Strep: Routinely test pregnant women for GBS using the ECM test

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My precious daughter, Faith, was stillborn on 23rd October 2015, nine days after her due date.  She was my 4th and last child to complete our beautiful family.

I had a normal healthy pregnancy, with growth scans throughout due to my second baby born in 2010 being a small baby for me (weighing 6lb 12oz).  I had my last scan just 3 weeks before my baby was born and she was growing well and everything was perfect.  She was very active throughout the pregnancy and I had no cause for concern. 

My due date of 14th October 2015 came and went, not surprisingly as I have been induced with all of my babies!  So on the 21st October I had a routine 41 week sweep.  My midwife explained before the exam that hopefully this would get things moving, which I didn’t hold out much hope for as they have never worked for me in the past.

On the evening of 22nd October around 8pm I started having a few pains and became excited that I would labour naturally, I was having minor pains and decided by 11pm to get some sleep ready for the main event.  After a rough nights sleep, on the morning of 23rd October when I arose at 5am I was having regular contractions.  By 8am I rang the hospital as the contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasting around 20-30 seconds.  I was informed by the hospital to stay at home until they were lasting around 40 seconds.  I waited until 10:30am and then went to the hospital.  When I arrived they asked me if my movements were good, to which I replied something like,” actually I can’t recall feeling any movements today but I felt her in the night and she was active yesterday, I've been working through my contractions so I haven’t been aware".  They listened in and to my horror there was no heartbeat.  This was confirmed by ultrasound and minutes later I was ready to push.  Within one hour of arriving at the hospital super excited to have our 4th and last child complete our family I had my dead baby in my arms. 

As we did not have an autopsy I will never know the cause of Faiths death, however, it was only when we received all the results back following Faiths death that I found out I had Group B Strep.  My results showed I was heavily colonized with Group B Strep, as was my urine, placenta and Faiths swabs. I will be treated for Group B Strep in future pregnancies, but have had to wait for my baby to die to find out I even had it!!! I am now passionate about raising awareness of the possible risks of Group B Strep. 

Group B Strep is a naturally occurring bacterium which 1 in 4 women carry,  it causes no harm to women and you do not even know you have it.  Just because you have Group B Strep doesn't mean your baby will necessarily get infected, but if it does it can be life-threatening.

Most Group B Strep infections can be prevented with prompt and appropriate treatment. There are usually no symptoms of carrying Group B Strep, therefore the only way to find out you have it is to be tested.  That's why I’ve started this petition.

Unlike many other countries including Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, New Zealand, Oman, Poland, Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland, Taiwan and the USA, the UK does not routinely test pregnant women to check for Group B Strep carriage during pregnancy.

The ECM test costs the NHS £11. It's hard to believe that if the NHS routinely tested pregnant women using the ECM test around 37 weeks, over 80% of these infections could be prevented by administering a simple antibiotic as soon as mum goes into labour.

The NHS currently follow the RCOG guidelines which advise a ‘risk based approach’ and as there are sometimes no other symptoms, it's can be impossible to know which women are colonized with Group B Strep without testing.  Using this approach is clearly not working as the number of babies affected by Group B Strep are increasing. 

Group B Strep is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies, and of meningitis in babies under 3 months - these infections are usually preventable.

On average, one newborn baby a day in the UK develops Group B Strep infection. One baby a week dies from Group B Strep infection. One baby a fortnight who survives the infection is left with long-term disabilities.

While we will never know if this infection is what caused Faiths death, perhaps if I had been tested Faith would be here today.  The fact remains I will be treated for GBS in future pregnancies, but have had to wait for my baby to die to find out I even had it!!!

It is my hope and mission that every pregnant woman be routinely tested around 37 weeks with the GBS-specific ECM (enriched culture medium) test for Group B Strep carriage and if found colonized be offered antibiotics in labour.  Until such screening is offered, every pregnant women should be told about GBS during an antenatal appointment and informed of where to be tested privately. 

Please sign and share this petition.  Many thanks x