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Couple share tragic stillbirth story to raise awareness and give hope to others
A couple left heartbroken by the preventable death of their baby son are sharing their story to raise awareness of the danger that a common infection carried by mothers can pose to babies and give hope to others.
Nousheen and Iestyn North’s first child Evan died after the Group B Strep infection was passed to him during birth. A communication error meant test results given to an unknown member of staff at Broomfield Hospital in Essex revealing Nousheen was carrying the Group B Strep (GBS) bacteria were not acted on. Anti-biotics that would have protected Evan were therefore not provided during labour. Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust has now admitted negligence and apologised.
The couple, of Chelmsford, Essex, who had a healthy baby boy called Louie Evan in August 2016, say they do not wish to criticise the NHS for the failures but want to help raise awareness of the risk that GBS poses to babies to help to prevent other families from suffering a similar tragedy.
Primary school teacher Nousheen, 34, commented: “Before this happened to us we had never even heard of Group B Strep or the devastating impact it can have. If we can save one other baby and family from going through the same nightmare by getting the message out about how dangerous it can be then something positive has been achieved from our case.
“We also want to give hope to other families who are dealing with the death of a baby. When I was in the depths of despair one of the things that got me through was reading stories about other people this had happened to who had gone on to have a healthy baby. It affects your life for ever but reading those stories gave me hope that we could have another baby and find some joy following such a tragedy.
“Baby death is still such a taboo subject and people don’t talk about it enough but they should do as it is more common than you think. When it happened to me I felt like I was the only one but I have since spoken to many people who have been affected by this and other issues such as stillbirth and miscarriage. So many people have been through some kind of journey to get their baby and I hope that by sharing our story we can help others in the same situation.”
Nousheen added that after Evan’s death she accessed a lot of help and support from the Essex branch of SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity) and attended group meetings that enabled her to meet other parents who had been through something similar and move forward with her life.
According to a fact sheet from Group B Strep Support, GBS is a very common, naturally occurring bacterium found in males and females of all ages, from babies to the elderly. GBS is usually found in the intestines, rectum or vagina but it is generally harmless and does not cause any symptoms. However there is a small risk that the bacteria can be passed on to babies around birth and cause life-threatening infection.
If the mother has been identified as a GBS carrier then antibiotics can be provided to her during labour that will kill the bacteria and protect the baby, however screening for GBS is not currently offered at most maternity hospitals. Women can buy tests fairly cheaply which they can carry out at home and be screened by private companies between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy.
An investigation into Evan’s death was done by the trust and a highly critical report was sent to Nousheen and Iestyn in February 2016 when they contacted JMW Solicitors for help in finding answers and ensuring lessons are learned. The couple was put in touch with Sophie Fox, a solicitor at JMW who has specialist experience in stillbirth cases.
Sophie commented: “The NHS does not routinely screen pregnant women for GBS and there is a lot of campaigning currently being done by organisations such as Group B Strep Support to change that.
“By chance, a doctor decided to test Nousheen when she was in the early stages of labour however this still did not prevent a tragic outcome as then no action was taken. If awareness of GBS among hospital staff had been greater, the penny might have dropped and that’s something Nousheen and Iestyn are bravely trying to address. The UK still has a high stillbirth rate, many of which are preventable, and this case shows that simple steps such as ensuring staff are aware of the risks and action required could address this issue.”
Nousheen was originally booked to give birth at Broomfield Hospital but due to how busy the hospital was when she went into labour she was encouraged to go to St Peter’s. Evan was born at 7.59am on 7th October but was not breathing and attempts to resuscitate him by midwives and ambulance crew were unsuccessful. Evan was transferred to Broomfield arriving at 9.16am while Nousheen was still making her own way there but tragically further attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. A post-mortem confirmed he had died from sepsis due to GBS infection.
GBS Support chief executive Jane Plumb MBE said: “We applaud the courage of Nousheen and Iestyn in raising awareness of group B Strep following the tragic stillbirth of their son Evan. Approximately 1% of all UK stillbirths are linked to group B Strep, and greater awareness and knowledge among expectant parents and their health professionals will help stop group B Strep infection in newborn babies.”
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Note to Editors
JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones.