A mum who almost lost her baby son at just three days old has spoken out to warn others about a killer bacteria infection which most new parents have no idea about.
Little Albie was spotted breathing quickly during a midwife visit when he was less than 24 hours old and after being rushed into A&E doctors quickly realised he was critically ill.
His parents Gemma and William Stevenson were shocked to learn a simple swab test during pregnancy, which costs around £11, would have detected the infection Group B Strep and prevented the family suffering an unimaginable tragedy.
37-year-old Gemma said: “We had a wonderful home birth with Albie and when the midwife arrived the next morning, we had no cause for concern about Albie’s health.
“She said he was doing well, but then noticed he was breathing a little fast.
“If she had been on a different round that day, or arrived an hour later, we could have lost him.”
Things got very serious, very quickly, as the new parents from Godalming, Surrey, rushed Albie to hospital.
“Within moments there were about 20 people around us, asking questions about my pregnancy, which had all been normal,” Gemma added.
“Albie was wheeled off in an incubator to neo-natal intensive care and we were in complete shock.
“We didn’t see him for about five hours while they were stabilising him, which was heartbreaking.
“Having your brand new baby taken away from you and not knowing what was wrong, even though rationally you know he’s in the best place, is traumatising.
“It was the longest five hours of our lives.
“The consultant later told us that when Albie arrived in A&E they knew they had a sick baby on their hands but by the time he reached the NICU he took a turn for the worse, as he was exhausted from breathing so quickly, and she’d been very concerned that Albie might not make it.”
Albie was diagnosed with Group B Strep, a type of bacteria which two out of five people have in their body, usually in the rectum or vagina.
It’s normally harmless and most people won’t realise they have it.
But it can be fatal for newborns who can catch it when they go through the vaginal canal during birth.
Gemma added: “I’d never heard of Group B Strep until it almost killed our son and I’d urge all mothers-to-be and their families to find out about group B Strep and make sure they know the signs for it.”.
If you want to know more about Group B Strep, how to get tested if you are pregnant or signs to look out for.
The mum is speaking out about her son’s traumatic birth as she aims to raise money for Group B Strep Support, a charity raising awareness of this potentially deadly condition.
She is taking part in the charity’s 3,000 squat challenge this July to mark Group B Strep Awareness Month, an annual campaign to highlight the importance of group B Strep awareness, education and research.
Little Albie recovered well and is now a happy, content two-year-old.
The latest Public Health England Data released England’s rate of group B Strep infection in babies has risen by 77 per cent over the last 24 years, between 1996 and 2020.
It means more babies than ever are developing life-threatening Group B Strep infection despite most of these cases being entirely preventable.
England’s infection rate for infants is currently more than double that of many other high-income countries, many of whom have introduced routine antenatal screening for GBS.
Group B Strep Support is calling for urgent action to reverse this trend, and protect tiny lives.
Chief executive Jane Plumb said: “Looking back over the past 25 years is a bittersweet experience. I am deeply proud of the huge impact Group B Strep Support has made, and the progress we have seen in the development of group B Strep policy and impacting research.
“I am also deeply frustrated that the UK still lags behind the rest of the developed world on group B Strep prevention.
“This new data from Public Health England shows that so many more babies are developing what is often a preventable disease, and that the pace of change is slow. Urgent action is needed.”