A MUM is warning other parents about Group B Strep after her daughter died from the bacterial infection at just eight days old.
Little Elsie Williams contracted Group B Strep – a common bacterium often carried in the intestines or lower genital tract – and died in her mum’s arms.
Mum Sally, 32, and dad Daniel, 33, said they were only told about the disease after it killed their daughter.
Less than 24 hours after Elsie died, a letter arrived confirming mum Sally had GBS – with an information leaflet about the infection.
Now Sally is raising awareness about GBS and encouraging other pregnant women to get a vaginal swab – costing the NHS just £11 – which can pick up the infection.
The bacterium is very common and it is believed that up to two in five people have it.
However, while it is normally harmless for healthy adults, it can make babies very ill – it can cause sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis.
There is a small risk that women who have GBS during their pregnancy can pass it to their baby during labour and make them ill, according to the NHS.
Mum Sally said she had never heard of Group B Strep before and that she wishes she was warned about the risks of the infections before.
She told the Mirror: “It was too little, too late. If we’d got the information before the birth we could’ve spotted the signs, paid for a simple test and our daughter would very likely still be here.”
It is estimated about one pregnant woman in five in the UK carries GBS in their digestive system or vagina.
The NHS website states that GBS is not routinely tested for, but may be found during tests carried out for another reason, such as a urine test or vaginal swab.
A vaginal swab test during pregnancy can pick up the infection early.
Pregnant women who have GBS may be advised to have antibiotics into a vein during labour, which can reduce the risk of their baby getting ill.
The UK’s rate of Group B Strep infection in infants is double that of other developed countries – and it is on the rise.
Sally said: “If all expectant mums got screened here like they do in most other countries, we’d likely be cuddling our little girl.
“Now there’s just a massive hole in our lives, a hole that we’ll never fill.”
Sally went into labour at 38 weeks and was taken to St James’s Hospital in Leeds, where nurses found she had a slight temperature.
Elsie was born seemingly healthy on June 9 and Sally was discharged the following day.
But just 48 hours later, Sally and Danny noticed Elsie was grunting, lifting her legs up and she was not feeding properly.
The baby’s condition kept deteriorating as she developed breathing problems too, so she was taken to hospital.
Elsie was later diagnosed with GBS, but her mum said she and her husband did not really know what it was.
Doctors told the distraught parents that the infection seemed to have reached Elsie’s brain and there was a high chance she had permanent brain damage.
The baby then started having violent seizures and, when the MRI scans came back, doctors told Sally and Daniel there was nothing they could do to reverse Elsie’s brain damage.
Sally said: “All we could do was make her comfortable and be with her in those final few hours.”
Elsie passed away on June 17.
Her mum added: “We gave her one final hug, and laid her gently back down on the bed where she’d lain for the past five days.
“That feeling of loss and emptiness leaving hospital without our daughter was crushing and will never leave us.”
The next morning, the parents – who also have 21-month-old son Arthur – received a letter from the hospital with a leaflet about Group B Strep.
Sally said: “That letter didn’t mention any risk to the baby from Group B Strep, just to me.
“Here we were, having seen our daughter going through absolute hell for almost a week, with massive seizures. I was fine, but our baby was gone.”
The mum now wants to tell her story to raise awareness of the disease and help other worried parents.
Sally is calling for a national screening policy for expectant mums.
According to the latest data from the charity Group B Strep Support, only a quarter of pregnant women and new mums said they could access the information they needed on GBS.
Sally and Daniel have set up a fundraiser in memory of Elsie, which has raised more than £5,730 for Group B Strep Support.
It reads: “Elsie was only with us for a very short time, however during that time we loved her dearly and she made our family complete.
“It brings us great sadness that our friends and family weren’t able to meet our beautiful baby girl, but she will forever be in our hearts and thoughts.”
To donate visit: dignityfunerals.co.uk/funeral-notices/17-06-2020-elsie-hazel-williams/