Bereaved Mum Persuades MSPs To Take 'Definitive Action' Over Group B Strep Screening In Pregnancy

Mum Kickstarts Parliamentary Debate Over Pregnancy Screening After Baby Dies

A couple are appealing for Group B Strep pregnancy screening to be made mandatory, after their baby died from an infection that could have been prevented if caught early by a simple test.

Shaheen McQuade, 24, and Craig Blackie, 32, gathered 12,000 signatures on a petition calling for all pregnant women to be given a swab test that detects the Group B Streptococcus infection.

They presented the petition to Holyrood’s public petitions committee on 12 January and MSPs promised to take "definitive action" on the matter.

"No mother should ever have to cope with losing a baby," McQuade told HuffPost UK Parents.

"To live with the knowledge that it was preventable is a million times worse. It is indescribable the feeling I have to learn that a simple £11 test would have saved my son's life.

"The NHS took a gamble with my son's life and they lost."

McQuade's son Zach lived for two weeks

McQuade's son Zach Blackie died in August 2015, when he was just two weeks old, after contracting the early-onset GBS (group B streptococcus) infection, which lead to meningitis.

McQuade unknowingly carried the infection.

The NHS states it's estimated around one in four pregnant women have Strep B bacteria in their vagina or digestive system. Most babies exposed to Strep B will be unaffected, but in around 1 in every 2,000 cases they can become infected.

As newborn babies immune systems aren't fully developed, Strep B bacteria can quickly spread through their body, causing serious infections, such as meningitis.

If McQuade had the detector test while pregnant, Zach could have been treated with antibiotics.

On 12 January, McQuade and her partner attended Scottish Parliament to discuss her petition and were pleased the MSPs were keen to take matters further.

"The MSPs said on 12 January it is time to take 'definitive action' and want to push the Government to make it mandatory," she explained.

"The Scottish Parliament will now be writing to the Government and then take it from there.

"This test is very important for people to know about. Group B Strep not only causes bacterial meningitis, it can cause sepsis and septicaemia, still births and miscarriages, and can leave children with mild or serve disabilities and development problems.

"There are 22 other countries that routinely screen expectant mums and the rates have decreased by up to 86% in those countries, where in Scotland the rates have increased by 10%.

"If other countries can do it then why can't we."

McQuade and Blackie want to raise awareness so this doesn't happen to another couple

McQuade said when she gave birth to Zach, she couldn't believe how lucky she was.

"They say when babies smile that it is just an instinct, yet my son smiled every single day," she said.

"On 14 August he was unwell and my health visitor advised it was just colic, however a couple of hours later I could see he was getting worse and called an ambulance.

Zach was taken to Wishaw General where he was tested for meningitis.

"A couple of hours later my world was shattered forever when the doctor advised that he did in fact have bacterial meningitis and would not survive," said McQuade.

"He was moved to Yorkhill hospital were he fell asleep the following day.

"No words can explain the devastation and heartache this has caused me."

Shortly after, McQuade had a meeting with a consultant who treated Zach at Yorkhill.

The consultant explained Zach had developed meningitis from the Group B Strep infection that he picked up during labour.

McQuade said: "I was devastated to learn that a simple swab would have alerted midwives that I was carrying this in the birth canal.

"If I'd had a swab at the beginning of labour, Zach could have received antibiotics, which would would have almost certainly prevented the infection being passed on to him and he would still be here.

"This is something I was never made aware of during pregnancy."

McQuade said she asked doctors why mothers are not routinely swabbed when they go into labour and as of yet, she doesn't feel she has received a satisfactory explanation.

In December 2015, McQuade set up a petition to request mothers are routinely swabbed during pregnancy. She received more than 12,000 signatures and comments from women who also had similar experiences.

Having now taken her petition to parliament, McQuade is hoping the MSPs will be able to take matters further in discussions with Westminster.

McQuade received positive feedback when she attended Scottish Parliament

Pregnant women are routinely screened for Group B Strep in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Argentina and Kenya.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said, according to The Mirror: "I would like to reassure women that if, during pregnancy or following the birth of their baby, there is a risk of an infection, they will be monitored and treated appropriately.

"We take this matter seriously and work hard to improve the situation.

"A number of actions on Group B strep are under way, including a national study that will be used to inform research and develop new tests.”

She said the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) are reviewing their advice on Group B Strep this year.

The UK NSC last made a recommendation on Group B Strep screening in pregnancy in November 2012, when they ruled the test should not be offered to all pregnant women as there was "insufficient evidence" to demonstrate that the benefits would outweigh the harms.

They stated: "Current screening strategies are unable to distinguish between carriers whose babies will be affected by early onset GBS {Group B Strep] and those which would not.

"As a result many thousands of low risk women would receive intravenous antibiotic prophylaxis during labour. The consequences of expanding antibiotic usage in this way are unknown."

Stiff neck

Meningitis Symptoms