Wigan mum calls for more awareness after serious infection put baby's life at risk

Kathryn Hughes in hospital with her son Joshua
Kathryn Hughes in hospital with her son Joshua

A mother-of-three is calling for all pregnant women to be better informed about a severe infection that almost killed her newborn son.

Joshua Aston was born at Wigan Infirmary on April 12, but his parents Kathryn Hughes and Mark Aston soon suspected something was wrong.

Baby Joshua in hospital

Baby Joshua in hospital

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Kathryn, who lives in Worsley Mesnes, said: “I was induced at 37 weeks because I was getting reduced foetal movement and I was suffering from anxiety.

“He was born early Friday morning and we thought everything was fine, but he had his eyes closed and he was foaming out of his mouth. I was asking if it was fine that he was foaming from his mouth and they said he had probably swallowed some fluid so we thought nothing of it.”

But within 90 minutes of his birth, Joshua started grunting, breathing quickly and refused to feed, so he was rushed to the special care baby unit.

He was given antibiotics and tests revealed he had group B strep sepsis, the UK’s most common cause of severe infection in newborn babies. He was transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital for treatment.

Kathryn said: “Watching Joshua hooked up to machines and wires was the hardest time of my life.

“It was like time had stopped. All we could do was hope he wouldn’t get any worse. We were all so scared and frightened and were also trying to juggle the needs of our two other children who were desperate to see their new baby brother.”

Fortunately Joshua’s condition improved and on her 34th birthday, Kathryn was able to hold her three-day-old son for only the second time.

“It was fantastic,” she said.

Joshua returned to Wigan Infirmary, before finally going home at 11 days old.

Kathryn says he is now doing well and tests have shown he will not suffer any long-term effects.

But she is concerned about the infection returning and has bought extra equipment, including a breathing mat, video monitor and thermometers, to check on him.

Despite having two older children - Courtney, 15, and five-year-old Jacob - and working in childcare, Kathryn had not heard of group B strep before.

The UK does not routinely test pregnant women for the infection, unlike in some other countries, and it can be passed unknowingly from mother to baby around birth. It kills one baby a week in the UK and leaves another with a long-term disability.

Most infections in newborns could be prevented by testing the mother late in pregnancy and providing intravenous antibiotics during labour.

The test would cost the NHS just £11 and from £35 privately.

Kathryn said: “People need to be aware that they can pay privately. It costs the NHS £6,000 a day to look after your baby on neo-natal but it’s only £35 or £40 to pay for the test.

“I think it should be available on the NHS. I think it should be free or at least out there for all pregnant women. It’s ridiculous that there’s no information or anything about it.”

The Group B Strep Support charity is working to eradicate the infection in babies and is supporting Kathryn.

Last month, the Department of Health and Social Care announced a major clinical trial for group B strep testing, which will test the effectiveness of two types of screening compared to no screening in 80 hospitals.