A WOMAN took to the streets in her bikini to raise awareness of the common infection which cost her child's life.
Barrhead mother-of-two Michelle Mcdowall, 38, was backed by a group of friends who paraded the town's streets in swimwear to highlight the dangers of the group B Streptococcal (Strep) bacteria which claimed the life of her 12-day-old daughter Alana 16 years ago.
Michelle was only 26 weeks pregnant when she was forced into labour at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley.
Alana was then rushed off to the hospital's Special Care Baby Unit weighing just 1 lb 7-and-a-half oz.
Group B Strep is a bacteria which normally lives in the bowels and vagina. It can be passed from mother to child before or during birth but testing is not routinely available to women in Scotland.
An estimated 20 to 30 per of women carry group B Strep, however, around 99 per cent of babies born to mothers carrying the bacteria are perfectly healthy.
As she was unaware of just how serious the infection could be, Michelle had little reason to believe her daughter would not be going home with her.
"I never got to see Alana straight away," she said.
"I had to wait until they got her stabilised. She was tiny but perfect and my daughter. I got told her chances of survival weren't good but I just thought: 'She is my daughter and there is no way I'm losing her'.
"I had swabs taken when I had first went into the RAH before Alana was born and they showed I was a carrier of group B Strep. My first question was 'Is it a sexually transmitted disease?'
"I was told it was a bacteria and that many women carry group B Strep naturally and it usually causes no problem.
"I was kept an eye on with my two boys (Thomas, 11, and six-year-old Kenzie) as I'm a carrier and tragically lost my daughter after only 12 days.
"It is the most common cause of serious infection in newborns and meningitis in babies under three months. Most group B Strep infections in babies are preventable but pregnant women in Scotland still do not get routinely tested for it."
Michelle, who lives in Divernia Way, decided to organise the bikini walk on July 29 to tie in with group B Strep awareness month and draw attention to the work of the group B Strep Support charity.
Though she will never fully be able to come to terms with the tragic death of her daughter, Michelle is hopeful the publicity stunt – which has raised over £500 so far – will alert more women to the potentially fatal infection.
She said: "It went well. There were 10 of us, a few friends and their children. I thought it would help us raise more money and awareness. I only found out last year women weren't tested – it's ridiculous.
"The pain doesn't go away. They (the doctors) knew even less about it then than they do now. I was heartbroken; it didn't feel real at the time.
"The majority of people don't even know what it is. As far as I'm aware, the testing for it isn't going to be available until 2020. I just don't understand it all.
"I don't think people understand how serious it is."
For more information about group B Strep, visit gbss.org.uk