Bereaved mum warns pregnant women about dangers of slapped-cheek disease

Dwynwen Davies, who lost one of her twins when she caught the slapped-cheek virus during her pregnancy, is campaigning to ensure more of us know how severely this common childhood infection can affect pregnant women

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Dwynwen Davies had no idea of the dangers of catching slapped-cheek syndrome in pregnancy when she picked up the virus from a child at the day nursery she runs.

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And she certainly didn’t know she’d end up losing a baby because of it.

Slapped-check syndrome, also known as fifth disease, is caused by the parvovirus B19 virus and is a common, and usually mild, childhood illness characterised by a red rash and flu-like symptoms.

But, if you catch it while you’re pregnant, it can pass to your unborn baby and cause complications including hepatitis, severe anaemia and heart problems. If you catch it in your first trimester, there is, sadly, a 19% risk that your unborn baby will die.

Dwynwen, 30, from Lampeter, was pregnant with twins she’d already named Martha and Cadi; Martha caught the infection when she did but Cadi didn’t. There are treatments, including intrauterine blood transfusion, but doctors told Dwynwen that going ahead with the transfusion for Martha could kill Cadi by inducing early labour.

“So, I decided that I couldn’t do it,” Dwynwen told the BBC.

Just weeks later, Dwynwen was told Martha had died. She continued to carry both babies until Cadi was born 7 weeks later.

“It was horrific,’ she said. “You are holding two babies – and one had died and the other had survived.

“I look at Cadi now and I am so incredibly grateful but I think I should have two exactly the same.”

Dwynwen has now launched a petition in Martha’s memory calling on the Welsh health authorities to produce a leaflet that will explain to everyone the dangers of slapped-cheek syndrome in pregnancy.

“I put it on Facebook and had thousands and thousands of comments from people saying that people are aware of slapped cheek but didn’t know the severity if you are pregnant,” she said.

“It’s so sad that I’ve lost a baby because of a lack of information and knowledge about the virus.

“Her death could have been prevented. It is vital that people know about it.”

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MadeForMums Writer – Jessica Gibb

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