In March 2018, Nicolene Strydom lost her baby boy at not even a week old to a bacterial infection – of which she didn’t even know she was a carrier

Group B-Streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterial infection found in one in five pregnant women worldwide – and is responsible for an estimated 147 000 stillbirths and infant deaths each year.

In March 2018, Nicolene Strydom lost her baby boy at not even a week old to the bacterial infection – which she didn’t even know she was a carrier of!

This is her heartbreaking story:

I had a perfectly normal pregnancy

I went to all my monthly check-ups and at each appointment, my gynae confirmed that everything appeared to be 100% fine and healthy.

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This was our first born. We were so excited to meet our little bundle of joy, a boy we had named Nathan.

In the early hours of the 13th of March 2018, I went into labour. I was 39 weeks pregnant.

My husband took me to a private hospital where our son was born later that afternoon. Nathan, a perfectly healthy baby boy, was born weighing 3,08kg.

Nicolene shortly after the birth of her son, Nathan

Both Nathan and I were cleared for discharge the following day.

Once home, Nathan became very fussy and started to cry – a lot!

We could see that he was in pain – and on top of it, he was struggling to feed. Concerned new parents, we took him back to the private hospital for a check-up with his paediatrician.

The paed had a quick look at him while I gave her a run-down of his symptoms, which at the time were; restlessness, struggling to feed and curling his body into a ball (as if in pain). He also made odd grunting noises and had had lots of dirty nappies! Her diagnosis? Colic.

We were sent home with a script – and started the prescribed meds, hoping it would make him feel better. And in fact, he did look a little better each time we gave him pain medication.

On the morning of the 17th of March, I woke up around 5am to nurse him. Once he appeared satisfied, I laid him back down in his crib to continue sleeping. When we woke a little later we were horrified to find him unresponsive.

We rushed to the hospital hoping that a medical team would be able to save him. En route, I placed a panicked call to his paed’s emergency number. It went straight to voicemail, so I left a message. Until today, my call has not been returned.

When we arrived at the hospital, an on-call doctor tried his best to resuscitate Nathan. But, it was too late. Our precious newborn baby boy was already gone.

We blamed ourselves at first

At first, we blamed ourselves thinking, “What could we have done wrong?” However, an autopsy report later revealed that his death was not caused by our wrong doing.

Nathan died of Neonatal Meningitis caused by GBS.

Heartbroken, I threw myself into research and this is what I learnt…

Approximately 25 to 30% of pregnant women are carriers of Group-B Strep. Women don’t present any symptoms if they are carriers, but the bacteria can spread to the baby during a vaginal delivery.

If a woman tests positive for GBS, then an antibiotic drip is administered during delivery to prevent the bacteria from passing to baby.

“This simple treatment will prevent complications for both the mother and baby, saving the baby from any potential harm” – which could include a preterm birth, extended NICU stay or worse; neonatal sepsis, pneumonia or meningitis.

I had no idea that I was a carrier. And, if I had known about the danger of being one, I would have insisted on a swab test.

The GBS swab test is considered ‘routine’ for all pregnant women in the United States once they hit 35 to 37 weeks gestation. It is, unfortunately, NOT considered ‘routine’ in South Africa – something that I hope to change in the aftermath of losing my son.

It’s devastating to think that our heartache could have been prevented by a simple swab, which is why I would like to encourage all pregnant women to chat to their gynaes about Group B-Strep and insist on a test before or at their 37 week check-up.

I wouldn’t want any other parents-to-be to experience the grief of losing their newborn baby to something that could have been prevented and/or treated.

Story told by Nathan’s mommy, Nicolene Strydom.