Desperate sadness quickly turned to anger when young Gloucester parents Danielle and Andy Wilkins discovered their still born son Cody could have been saved if a simple infection test had been completed.
The £34 swab for the Group B Streptococcus virus takes just seconds. A positive result can then be routinely treated with a course of anti-biotics.
But neither of those actions were performed on either Danielle or Andy when they finally fell pregnant after their third course of IVF treatment late in 2013.
Danielle, 25, a domestic worker at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, was forced into IVF after a medical condition led to the surgical removal of her fallopian tubes.
Their first dose of treatment failed, less than a year after the Tuffley couple wed in August 2012. But a second saw Danielle fall pregnant only to miscarry soon after. A third course of IVF on the NHS finally brought the good news the couple craved.
Danielle was due to give birth to Cody this month, but tragedy struck the young family in June.
“I was in so much pain, absolute agony,” she said.
“I rang Andy, he said get an ambulance straight away. When the paramedic arrived she said it is a water infection. I asked for pain relief, but the gas and air was not touching the pain. I was crying my eyes out asking for help.”
The ambulance took her into hospital where a doctor was called in to examine Danielle and the baby.
“The baby’s heartbeat was still strong, but there was no blood,” Danielle added. “There was no indication there was any kind of infection at this point. We thought everything was fine.”
Andy left his wife to collect some spare clothes from home. When he returned at around 8.30pm that night, Danielle was in agony.
Nurses arrived to carry out a scan and found Danielle was ready to give birth. At 10.23pm, Cody was born, but their was no life left in his tiny body. The couple were given a few precious moments with their son in the Snowdrop Unit, a special unit for infant fatalities.
“I just broke down,” said Andy, 28.
“I had never been through anything like that, it was horrible. “Danielle was out of it, there was blood all over the bed. The nurse said ‘go to daddy’ and put him in my arms.”
Danielle was released from hospital less than 24 hours later.
A week later and they received a letter informing them of the GBS infection that contributed to Cody’s premature death.
“We blamed ourselves for what had happened,” said Andy.
“It was a difficult time. Everyone I asked about GBS knew nothing. I did some research online and asked our midwife.
“I’ve found out you can take antibiotics at 37 weeks, but what about all the women who have the infection before then?
“We want to see a compulsory test for all pregnant women who may be at risk. It is a simple test, and such a waste of life. It shouldn’t be just about money.”
Danielle and Andy are now hoping to raise £4,000 to pay for their fourth course of IVF. They also want to raise money to help publicise the risks of GBS.
Dr Anne Mackie, from the National Screening Committee at Public Health England, said: “The introduction of screening would need to prevent the worst effects for babies without causing harm in the process. Currently there are limitations with the tests and the treatment that means it is not clear that screening would be of benefit overall. It is not a risk free option, and we need to be sure that it wouldn’t do more harm than good. The current GBS test is not accurate enough and would lead to many thousands of women being offered antibiotics they didn’t need.”
Screening policy is set to be reviewed in 2015.
Routine testing of mums for GBS carriage in pregnancy is not currently available on the NHS.
Infants have a 300-1 chance of picking up GBS from their mums if they are a carrier.
Early labour or previous infections increase the risk to unborn babies.
Most babies who become infected develop symptoms within 12 hours of birth.
- Being floppy and unresponsive
- Not feeding well, grunting
- High or low temperature
- Fast or slow heart / breathing rates
Around 1 in 2,000 UK babies develops early-onset GBS infection.
For more information on GBS, visit Group B Strep Support, the UK’s dedicated charity to help prevent GBS infection in newborn babies http://www.gbss.org.uk #GBSaware