A Gainsborough primary school headteacher - whose newborn baby almost died after developing a group B Streptococcal infection - is calling for all pregnant women in the UK to be routinely tested.
Louise and Philip Simmonds’ daughter, Charlotte, was born at Bassetlaw Hospital in Worksop on September 11 at 38 weeks, but it was soon clear that she was deeply unwell and she was taken into urgent special care, after developing a ‘grunting’ sound when breathing.
Charlotte developed sepsis and on day three, her parents were faced with the news that Charlotte also had suspected meningitis.
Louise, who is the headteacher at Charles Baines Community Primary School, said: “A few hours after Charlotte was born she started having breathing difficulties, making a grunting sound. She had very high infection levels in her blood and meningitis was suspected.
“A lumbar puncture was done, but the spinal fluid sample couldn’t be used as a vein was caught and there was blood in the sample.
“She was eventually diagnosed with group B Strep sepsis (blood infection) and was kept in hospital for two weeks for treatment.”
Unlike many developed countries, the UK does not routinely test for group B Strep, which causes a range of serious infections including pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.
The bacteria may be passed unknowingly from a mother to her baby around birth, and kills one baby a week in the UK.
Most group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented by testing the mother late in pregnancy and providing intravenous antibiotics during labour to those who test positive.
“I hadn’t even heard of group B Strep before Charlotte was born and was not offered a test for it,” said Louise.
“I think all women should be screened as a matter of course as I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what we’ve suffered as a family.
“The whole experience has been highly traumatic, not least for our little two-year-old son, who was separated from me and his new baby sister.
She added: “We feel incredibly lucky that Charlotte has made a full recovery and is now doing very well. This could have been a very different story.”
Louise and Philip, from Beckingham, near Gainsborough, are being supported by Group B Strep Support, which is working to eradicate the infection in newborn babies.
Jane Plumb MBE, the charity’s founder and chief executive, said the UK’s policy on group B Strep was not working.
She added: “At present, pregnant woman are assessed for risk factors for group B Strep developing in the baby, however we are missing lots of babies whose mums don’t have risk factors but do carry the bacteria and this means we’re putting newborns at a terrible risk of dying or suffering from a devastating long-term health condition.
“This situation cannot continue.”