A Portaferry woman who has been spearheading the campaign to have pregnant women screened for the bacteria 'Strep B' since losing her first baby to the infection, says she is heartened by the steps the Health Service has been taking.
Jillian and Andy Boyd, who now live in Belfast with their healthy eight month old daughter Clara, lost their first child, Erin, to Group B Streptococcus (GSB) infection – a bacteria easily treated when diagnosed.
Jillian told the Community Telegraph that while Group Strep B NI is continuing to call for routine screening of pregnant women, it believes the Stormont Deparrtment of Health is doing more than any other UK health Department to tackle the infection which has claimed seven babies' lives in the last 18 months.
Jillian said: "They aren't screening, but they are doing more.
"Midwives now all have to talk to pregnant women about the infection – QUB's midwifery unit are looking at e-learning programs for midwives and are looking at different guidance out there. They are also making algorithm sheets and are recording whether women have had the infection, if a baby has been infected, how they found out about the infection – and that is evidence gathering, which is a positive step.
"Andy was keen on getting more GSB information on to the NI Direct website and more information has gone on to the Patient Client Council website. The Department of Health is also going to begin focus groups with pregnant women after the birth of the baby to monitor the situation and gather more evidence – it's something we've always pushed for."
Jillian is urging all pregnant women to get tested. Surprisingly, she was not automatically screened when she fell pregnant with her second daughter. "I didn't know at the time of my first pregnancy that I was a carrier, but when I became pregnant again I got one of the private tests off the internet and it showed I was still carrying it."
She added: "I wish we didn't have to do this campaigning but it is a legacy for Erin, it's a nice thing to have done and to know it was done because of her. We still want all women to have the 95% gold standard GBS test. Until they do routine screening they're not going to properly prevent it from affecting families.
"Since it has been rolled out in the USA rates of infection have dropped by 80%. And it costs more not doing anything. Statistics show that screening would save around £37m a year in other costs related to children becoming infected."
Last week website MumStuff sent its 10,000th group B Strep private testing pack to a pregnant mother.