A Galway mum says her baby died... because she wasn't given a scan 5 years ago

A Galway mum says her baby died... because she wasn't given a scan

Incredibly, some 23,300 Irish women were not offered foetal anomaly scans last year.

Anomaly scans can diagnose serious conditions and fatal fetal abnormalities which allow health professionals to help manage medical conditions for both mother and baby.


In most OECD countries anomaly scans are routinely offered to expectant mothers, however, in Ireland only five of the 19 maternity hospitals automatically provide them all expectant mums.

Grainne McSteen from Galway believes her baby died as a result of not having the scan.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny show recently Grainne said:


"I went on my due date, and expected to have a healthy baby. When he came out, he was very blue, and he was rushed down to special care."

Her son Ethan was moved to Crumlin Children's Hospital, but due to her own health issues Grainne was not able to go with him.

"When I woke up in the morning, I had a phone call to let me know how sick he was. He had a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome - that means the left side of his heart never developed in the womb."

Her baby was put under sedation and Grainne was told he would need several operations to try and fix his heart.


"Later on that evening the nurse came in to talk to me, and explained that after taking him off the sedation they saw he was having seizures. They brought him for a scan and realised he had suffered serious brain damage, that he would just have no quality of life.

"After talking to the doctors on day six, we decided we had to let him go and take him off the machines that were keeping him alive."

Grainne was able to bring Ethan back to the hospital in Ballinasloe for his final day.

"I got to be his mum for the day, got to hear him crying, see him with his eyes open. He passed away on his one week birthday."

Grainne believes that if she had been given an anomaly scan a care team would have been ready to look after Ethan at birth.


"He probably would have been born up in Dublin, and he would have had a medical team available to him straight away who would then been able to work on his heart.

"But he didn't have the chance to fight. It was such a serious condition he might not be here today anyway, but it was more the fact that he never got the chance to fight that condition."

Louise Kenny, professor of obstetrics at University College Cork, says that anomaly scans should be routinely offered in all pregnancies.

In her report to the Oireachtas Health Committee early this year, Prof Kenny spoke of a case where a woman gave birth to a baby with a serious condition that had not been diagnosed during the pregnancy. The baby had to be transferred to Crumlin Children's Hospital.

"That baby died 230 miles away from its mother... She never got to see her baby in those moments and she will carry that with her forever,” Prof Kenny said.

"This is a screening test that should be offered to everybody. When we're having to make difficult decisions based on prior risk, invariably we miss the vast majority of problems that this scan is designed to screen for and pick up."


AIMS Chair Dr Krysia Lynch says AIMS Ireland have been campaigning for widespread access to anomaly scans for more than a decade.

"It was one of the key issues we discussed with Minister of Health Mary Harney in December 2007. It remains a key undressed priority ten years later. Is no one listening?"

"AIMS Ireland also highlighted the need for universal fetal anomaly scanning as it was identified by women we survey as a key priority in terms of equal access to services."

"We believe anomaly scans should be available to all who choose to have them in a timely manner."

In September the current Health Minister, Simon Harris, launched the National Maternity Strategy implementation plan, which states that all women should have access to anomaly scans.

However, according to those working in obstetrics, it will be 2019 at the earliest before scans could be offered to everyone.

Dr Lynch says that the current situation discriminates against those who live in rural areas or who don't have the means to pay for a scan privately.

"Taking things forward, we urge the Minister of Health to resource this vital area of maternity care immediately so that all pregnant people and babies in Ireland can benefit, not just those who live in the large cities or who have the capacity to pay."

Between now and 2019 a minimum of 460 babies will be born with conditions that will be undiagnosed until birth. Some of these babies may, like Ethan, die as a result.

Grainne has started a petition to demand equal access to anomaly scans for all pregnant women. A link to her petition is here if you wish to sign it.