A Carmarthen Mum will be running the London Marathon to help raise awareness of a condition, which almost killed her daughter.

“I want all pregnant women to be told about group B Strep so they can at least make a decision to have the test or not. What I would give to have had that knowledge while I was pregnant,” said Yvonne Davies

Yvonne Davies, from Carmarthen, is running the London Marathon, which has been postponed until later in the year to raise awareness of group B Strep, the most common cause of severe infection in newborn babies, causing sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis. Yvonne’s daughter, Ffion, almost died a few days after birth in 2010 from a group B Strep infection. This is Yvonne’s second marathon.

Yvonne Davies with daughter Ffion

Group B Strep kills one baby a week in the UK and another is left with a life-changing disability. It is a common bacterium, which lives quite normally in our bodies and is usually harmless. When pregnant women carry group B Strep – and approximately one in four do – it can be passed to their baby around labour and, for some of those babies, cause potentially life-threatening infection. The NHS does not test pregnant women for group B Strep unlike the United States, Germany, France, Spain, and many other developed countries, where all mothers-to-be are tested.

I’ve had first-hand experience of this having nearly lost Ffion to group B Strep infection,” said Yvonne Davies. “What she went through in her first weeks of life was horrendous and now having cerebral palsy and epilepsy as a result of the infection is heart breaking, particularly when this could have been avoided.”

Most group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented by testing the mother late in pregnancy and providing antibiotics in labour to those who test positive. This reduces the risk of a newborn baby developing the infection by up to 90 per cent. The test would cost the NHS just £11 and from £35 privately. For more information go to www.gbss.org.uk.

Yvonne Davies said: “I want all pregnant women to be told about group B Strep and the effect it can have on their baby. What I would give to have had that knowledge while I was pregnant. Giving them the tools to make an informed decision is critical so they can at least make a decision about whether to have the test or not. It’s such a shame that the UK still does not do this test for all pregnant women.

“I’m running to raise awareness of group B Strep as well as fundraising to help the charity, Group B Strep Support (GBSS). The charity is small and £2,000 will make an enormous difference. With a small charity you can see where the money is being spent. Ffion is the light of my life. Her determination, strong will and happiness is amazing and I run this for her. She runs her 1km races with such determination, I have no excuse not to get round 26.2 miles.

“I ran the London Marathon in 2016 and have run lots of half marathons but I’m definitely not a natural runner. However, if I can do it, anyone can and I’d love to inspire others to start running. I’m a Run Leader in my local running club, the Trots, and run with the Beginner to 5K group. Anyone can enjoy the benefits of running,” said Yvonne Davies

Visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/groupb2020 to support Yvonne Davies’ fundraising.

Jane Plumb MBE, founder and chief executive of the Group B Strep Support charity, said: “We’re so grateful to Yvonne for running the London Marathon to raise funds for Group B Strep Support. It’s a major achievement and will raise invaluable funds for our work in informing and educating expectant parents and their families about group B Strep and how to reduce the risk to newborns.

“Sadly, in the UK we continue to see the rates of group B Strep in babies rising. We are calling on the NHS to offer all pregnant women testing for group B Strep so that other families do not suffer as the Davies’ have done,” Jane Plumb continued.

Group B Strep Support is asking its supporters in April to take on the distance of a Marathon in a month, by running, walking, swimming or cycling the 26.2 miles distance – while raising awareness of group B Strep infection in newborn babies. Iwan Thomas explains in this clip how to get involved.

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For further information on group B Strep or Group B Strep Support, please contact Frances Knox, Frankly PR, frances@frankly-pr.co.uk or 07850 470123.

UK prevention approach

The UK does not routinely offer antenatal testing for group B Strep, unlike most high-income countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, France and Spain.
In the UK, health professionals consider a range of risk factors to determine whether a woman should be offered antibiotics in labour, rather than testing for the presence of group B Strep.
Latest guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) are at https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1471-0528.14821.
The UK rate of early-onset group B Strep infection (those developing in babies in their first 6 days of life) is increasing and is currently two and half times (2.5x) that of the United States. The US rate dropped by over 80% following the introduction of routine testing.
In 2019, the Department of Health & Social Care announced funding for a major clinical trial comparing the effectiveness of testing compared against risk-based screening in 80 hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland.
Testing for group B Strep carriage

The most effective test for group B Strep is an enriched culture medium test (ECM test) and is available from a number of home testing services and private clinics (see www.gbss.org.uk/test).
The ECM test is a safe test, usually done between 35-37 weeks of pregnancy, and the swabs can be taken by the pregnant women herself.
Although at present the NHS does not routinely test all pregnant women for group B Strep carriage, the RCOG recommends that women who tested positive in their previous pregnancy should be offered testing specifically for group B Strep, using the ECM test, in their next pregnancy. As a result, the ECM test is increasingly becoming available in NHS hospitals.
The ECM test is highly sensitive – it will detect almost twice as many women carrying group B Strep than the all-purpose swab test used in the NHS to investigate vaginal discharge.
Group B Strep Support

Group B Strep Support is a national charity, working to stop group B Strep infection in babies.

Set up in 1996 by Jane Plumb after her son, Theo, died from group B Strep infection aged 17 hours. The charity is dedicated to stopping group B Strep infections, including meningitis, in babies. We support families affected by group B Strep, educate the public, doctors and midwives about group B Strep and campaign for improvements to prevention and treatment in the UK.

www.gbss.org.uk: offers information about group B Strep infections, testing and treatment. All information is approved by an expert medical advisory panel.

Helpline: 0330 120 0796 or email info@gbss.org.uk provides one to one support and information.

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