'I didn't know I had Strep B .. but a simple test could have told me'
Group B Strep, commonly known as Strep B, is the most common cause of life threatening infection in newborn babies and can cause sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis.However, most of the infections can be prevented by testing expectant mums and providing targeted antibiotics during labour - but testing is not routinely offered on the NHS.AASMA DAY talks to a Lancashire mum who wants to raise awareness of the condition after her own ordeal.
When Mandy Davis became pregnant with her daughter Isla, as she was 40, she found herself being paid a little more attention than normal.
She was bomabarded with information about all sorts of things such as whooping cough, pre-eclampsia and protecting herself with a flu jab.
But there was one notable exception - nothing was mentioned about Strep B, a bacteria carried by around 20 to 30 per cent of healthy women.
Although the bacteria, also known as group Strep B, isn’t usually dangerous for adults, it is life threatening for newborn babies and it can cause sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis.
Mandy, 43, who lives in Ashton, Preston, recalls: “I was given all sorts of other information throughout my pregnancy - but no mention was made about Strep B.
“I wasn’t told what it was, what risks it poses to babies or whether you could do anything about it if you discovered you had it.
“I was completely oblvious to the whole thing - and I think many other people are too.”
Unknown to Mandy, who works at the Royal Preston Hospital as a manager in education, she was carrying Strep B but as there are no tests for this on the NHS, it was not picked up.
The ECM test (Enriched Culture Medium test) is the international ‘gold standard’ for detecting group B Strep. It is available from many chemists for less than £40.
Mandy, who also has a son Nathan, 14, who she experienced no problems with during pregnancy and birth, was completely unaware she was carrying Strep B and her pregnancy with Isla was very straightforward.
Because of her age, doctors wanted to induce Mandy and on December 29 2014, her waters were broken and everything began progressing.
Mandy remembers: “The unusual thing was that I was juddering throughout labour and could not stop shaking even though I did not feel hot or cold. I was also quite sick throughout the labour.
“But nothing was mentioned about it being a problem.
“Isla was born weighing 8lb 15oz.
“It was quite a hurried birth in the end as Isla’s heartrare dropped and they initially said they would have to take some samples of blood from the baby.
“But when they went to check, her head was crowning.”
The following day, Mandy began juddering and shaking uncontrollably again and her mum was worried this did not seem normal and alerted medics.
A midwife took Mandy’s temperature and discovered she had a fever.
Tests then revealed Mandy had sepsis triggered by Strep B.
Mandy remembers: “It was then that they decided to look at Isla to see if she was also affected.
“They tested Isla and I remember them talking about a specific marker and Isla’s was twice what it should have been.
“At that point, they told me they needed to give me IV antibiotics and they gave Isla a lumber puncture and IV antibiotics.
“They did the lumber puncture on Isla to check the infection had not gone into her spinal fluid or caused complications like meningitis.
“Isla was only a day-old and to think of her having a lumber puncture when she was so tiny was horrific.
“Once it became apparent that both Isla and I had an infection caused by Group B Strep, the midwives and the rest of the team were amazing.
“They looked after us really well over what was a difficult time.
“We ended up spending New Year and Nathan’s 12th Birthday in hospital.”
Mandy had to spend 12 days in hospital having antibiotics and Isla had to have IV antibiotics for 10 days.
Isla is now two and is a lively and healthy little girl with no lasting effects caused by the Strep B infection.
But Mandy knows they are one of the lucky ones.
She says: “We are very lucky as Isla is a happy and healthy child and has not had any issues or complications.
“We are extremely fortunate but others are not as lucky.
“There is still very little information out there about Strep B.
“I know the NHS is under pressure for costs, but to me, we have not got it right where Strep B is concerned.
“If I was to have another child, because I have had Strep B, I would be offered antibiotics in labour.
“But these could possibly be unnecessary as I might not be carrying group Strep B at that point.
“In the meantime, there are women out there who are carrying Strep B who don’t know about it and as a result, their baby could be stillborn or end up very poorly and fighting for life.
“There must be a way of figuring this out.
“Women need to be given the information about Strep B so they have the choice on whether to pay for one of these tests which cost around £40.
“The biggest thing is giving people the information and making them aware.
“The treatment for Strep B would cost more in the long-run than a simple test.
“I was in hospital for 12 days and Isla had to have IV antibiotics for 10 days.
“But this could all have been avoided with a £40 test.
“To me, it is about giving people the information and the choice.
“We feel very lucky to have Isla. She is a real character and so much fun.
“She is a confident little girl who clearly knows her own mind and has a real sense of cheekiness.”