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Mother lost her unborn baby after catching slapped-cheek syndrome

Heartbroken mother, 25, lost her unborn baby after catching slapped-cheek syndrome from the nursery where she worked

  • Gemma Carlile was 16 weeks pregnant when she found out she had the infection
  • Doctors told Mrs Carlile a blood transfusion to the womb was her only hope
  • Yet, just two days later, a scan revealed Mrs Carlile had lost her baby boy
  • Choosing to go through labour, she gave birth to Terence Arthur at 19 weeks 
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A heartbroken mother lost her unborn baby after catching so-called ‘slapped-cheek syndrome’ from the nursery where she worked.

Gemma Carlile, 25, from Newcastle, was 16 weeks pregnant when she discovered she had the infection, also known as parvovirus B19, which caused her baby to develop deadly anaemia.

After being told a blood transfusion in the womb was the only hope the baby boy would survive, a later scan revealed Mrs Carlile had suffered a miscarriage.

Choosing to go through with the labour, Mrs Carlile gave birth to her son Terence Arthur on March 28.

Mrs Carlile, who is married to Terry, 26, said: ‘We held him and kissed him, the pain and love I felt for my little boy is indescribable.

‘We left the hospital with empty arms and an empty heart that day.’

Mrs Carlile has launched a petition calling on the Government to protect pregnant women and their unborn babies from slapped cheek.

Gemma Carlile (pictured while pregnant alongside her seven-year-old son Logan) lost her baby after catching so-called ‘slapped-cheek syndrome’ from the nursery where she worked

The infection caused the unborn baby to develop anaemia, resulting in Mrs Carlile (pictured with her husband Terry, 26) miscarrying. She chose to give birth at 19 weeks


Slapped-cheek syndrome is a rash that is common in children.

It usually fades within two weeks but can come and go for up to a month, particularly if the sufferer is exercising, anxious, stressed or hot.

Slapped cheek is rarer in adults and can be more serious, leading to joint pain and stiffness.

Symptoms in children include:

  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Fever
  • Runny nose and sore throat
  • Headache

Most cases resolve with rest, drinking plenty of fluids and using moisturisers to ease itchy skin.

Sufferers should visit their GP if they are pregnant, or have a blood disorder or a weakened immune system. 

Slapped-cheek syndrome slightly increases pregnant women’s risk of miscarrying.  

Most people are unaware they carry the infection until they develop a rash.

The virus is spread by coughing or sneezing on objects, surfaces or between people. 

Source: NHS Choices  

‘I pushed him into the world; he was beautiful and perfect’  

Speaking of developing slapped cheek, Mrs Carlile, who is also mother to seven-year-old Logan, said: ‘At almost 18 weeks my baby had begun to show signs of foetal anaemia, which is caused by the virus.

‘Due to already having a large haematoma in my uterus, I was re-scanned two days later which confirmed my boy was becoming rapidly more ill.’

A haematoma is a solid swelling of clotted blood within tissues.

Mrs Carlile added: ‘It was confirmed the anaemia was caused by the slapped cheek.’

She decided to go through with the blood transfusion after doctors told the couple they would definitely lose their baby if they turned it down.

Mrs Carlile said: ‘This was scheduled for two days later as he was deteriorating so quickly’.

Yet the last-ditch procedure was not enough to save him. 

Mrs Carlile said: ‘I chose to give birth to my little boy and two days later at 19 weeks I was induced. 

‘I pushed him into the world; he was beautiful and perfect.’

The couple named the boy Terence Arthur, describing him as ‘beautiful and perfect’

Logan (pictured with a memorial for Terence) was devastated to lose his baby brother 

Campaigning to prevent slapped cheek  

Speaking of how she developed slapped-cheek syndrome, Mrs Carlile said: ‘I work in a childcare setting and have done for more than four years and at my first midwife appointment I asked what I should be aware of.

‘I was informed about slapped cheek but told not to worry as I was “probably immune anyway”. 

‘Well, my case and many other cases prove not everybody is immune whether they have worked with children or not.’

Mrs Carlile wants schools to be made aware of the dangers of the virus and for blood tests to be offered to pregnant women.

She hopes women who are more at risk of the disease may be offered a blood test at their first midwife appointment.

Mrs Carlile added: ‘Although we won’t be able to eradicate slapped cheek, we can at least try and come together and raise awareness.

‘I want to put something in place so fewer people have to go through this.’

Sign the petition here.   

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