The festive season is almost here, when families come together to celebrate, reflect on the year gone by and to remember those we’ve sadly lost.
Twenty-five years ago, Group B Strep Support became a registered charity. Jane Plumb and her husband, Robert, set up the charity after their middle child, Theo, died aged just 17 and a half hours from group B Strep infection. As you can imagine, it was a dreadful time for them when Theo died, made worse by there being no information available for them. When they found out most of these awful infections were preventable, it made them determined to stop it from happening to others.
There’s still more we need to do.
On average in the UK, fifteen babies a week develop GBS infection, one baby a week dies, and another survives with disability.
For mum Zara, she couldn’t be more excited this year – it’s her little girl’s first Christmas and that’s more than she could ever ask for.
“I’d been a mum for less than twelve hours when I learned about GBS.”
Zara’s firstborn, Fern, was stillborn in 2016. In January 2021, she felt blessed to find out they were expecting their second rainbow baby. Pregnancy after the loss of a baby is tough and fraught with worry. However, Zara was closely monitored throughout her pregnancy and had various tests, but not once was group B Strep mentioned to her.
“After a relatively smooth labour, we welcomed Eira into the world. She appeared to be fit and well. However, 5 hours after birth she started grunting and struggling to breathe and the crash team was called.
“I remember lots of healthcare professionals rushing into the room as they started to take over her breathing for her. It felt like all our fears were coming true and we were once again going to lay to rest another child. I remember pleading with the consultant not to let my daughter die.
“Eira was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where the wonderful staff worked tirelessly to keep Eira alive. After a few days, we received the results – they confirmed she had group B Strep infection and her treatment was then tailored specifically to treat the infection.
“I knew nothing about group B Strep and blamed myself. I felt like I had done this to my daughter. The doctors assured me this was not the case but, as a mum, I really struggled, feeling I had passed this onto her. I was also angry that, despite all the tests I had during my pregnancy due to my previous loss, GBS was never mentioned and that a simple test could have saved my daughter all this suffering.
“Fortunately, after two long weeks in NICU, Eira was going from strength to strength, and she was able to come home on oxygen. She is now a happy 10-month old and we can’t wait for our first Christmas together.
“We know we’re some of the lucky ones. The staff’s speedy action undoubtedly saved Eira’s life.
“It was only after Eira’s GBS infection was diagnosed that I found the information we needed.”
“One of the doctors gave me some literature from the Group B Strep Support website and it really helped me to understand what we were dealing with and to understand it wasn’t my fault.
“I wish I had been more educated about group B Strep as I would have paid for a test myself. The work Group B Strep Support do is so important. Raising awareness undoubtedly saves lives.”
Like Zara, you may be asking why pregnant people still aren’t tested for group B Strep as standard in their pregnancy. We’ve been asking the same question for 25 years. But we are not just asking, we are fighting every single day to make this happen. Because until testing is offered as standard for every pregnant person, every day we’re making sure as many parents as possible know about group B Strep, and that they can get tested.
Knowledge is power and you can give the gift this Christmas.
Will you give a donation this Christmas to help get the word out to more doctors, midwives, and parents? If mums know about GBS, they can be tested and take steps to protect their precious babies.
I’m sure, like Zara, you want to ensure that no babies have to suffer needlessly at the hands of this infection.
Your ongoing support is truly amazing and vital to everything we do to help save babies’ lives. We understand it might be difficult to give a donation this Christmas, but anything you can spare will mean that another family, like Zara, is supported during the most difficult of times.