A mother whose newborn baby contracted meningitis has backed a campaign calling on the NHS to inform pregnant women about group B Strep and offer them a chance to be tested.
Group B Strep is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies and of meningitis in babies up to the age of three months, passing from mother to baby around labour and birth.
The Why Guess? campaign, launched by charity Group B Strep Support, wants to stop health professionals having to guess whether a woman is carrying the potentially deadly group B Strep bacteria and start using the group B Strep-specific (ECM) test to detect carriage late in pregnancy.
Charlotte Heath, of Cheslyn Hay, is backing the campaign.
The 26-year-old's daughter Aimee, who was born in July 2011, is seriously disabled from her GBS infection.
All appeared well until the morning after she was born when Aimee showed signs of distress – high-pitched crying, struggling to feed and jaundice.
She was allowed to go home but her condition worsened over the coming days and she was rushed to hospital for blood tests and a lumbar puncture.
Aimee had developed group B Strep meningitis, but after three weeks of intensive care was finally allowed home again.
She now has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy because of the condition and cannot stand, walk, talk or sit up.
She can only be fed through a tube and remains under the care of 14 health professionals.
Her mother said: "Had I been tested for GBS and found positive, I could have been offered antibiotics in labour and Aimee’s illness and disabilities would have been prevented.
"It would be absolutely amazing if every pregnant woman was offered a test as the costs of a disabled child, or even losing a child, far outweigh the cost of a test. It is just mad how they haven’t brought it in here. Other countries do it, why doesn’t ours?
"Why guess when you can test?"
More than 188,000 people have signed a petition at www.change.org/GBS which calls for the NHS to inform pregnant women about group B Strep and offer them the GBS-specific ECM test.
Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, said most group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented when it is know if mothers are carrying the bacteria.
He raised concerns that few health professionals have access to the gold standard ECM test for group B Strep carriage and the only test available to them misses 40 per cent of carriers.
For more information on the campaign, visit gbss.org.uk/why-guess
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