A BREASTFEEDING mum died after refusing to take antibiotics for an ear infection over fears they might harm her baby boy.
Rhianne Statom-Barnett, 30, was worried the prescription-only medication might affect her three-month-old son George through the transfer of baby milk.
Just two days after a consultation with her GP in which she turned down his recommendation for a course of antibiotics, she was found unconscious at her mum's home with her son crying beside her.
The college lecturer, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, was rushed to hospital but doctors discovered she had developed the rare ear infection mastoiditis which quickly progressed to meningitis.
She died shortly afterwards in Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
An inquest in Manchester heard Miss Statom-Barnett, who worked as an English lecturer at St Helens College after completing a Masters degree, had given birth to George in December 2015 with partner Ross Norman.
But she began to complain of having ear problems the following March.
Her mother Beverly, 55, told the hearing her daughter booked a GP appointment where she compared the pain to giving birth.
Beverly, a nurse, said: "We looked at her ear and it had blood and fluid coming out of it.
"She said she had a severe headache and her ear was hurting a lot. She said it was worse than labour pains."
Three days later she found her daughter unconscious in her bed after George started at crying at 5am.
Beverly said: "She had vomited and when I called out her name she didn't respond we called an ambulance.
"At hospital the senior doctor came out and told us that Rhianne was effectively brain dead. It was heartbreaking."
Miss Statom-Barnett's partner said she often suffered from headaches and took paracetamol to ease the pain.
But he recalled being alarmed three days before she died.
Mr Norman told the hearing: "I remember seeing gunk in her ear. I knew it was serious."
Statom-Barnett's GP Dr Matthew Jones said: "She had a four day history of ear pain and upon examination I saw her ear drum had burst.
"She had no fevers so there was no evidence of mastoiditis at the time.
"I did suggest antibiotics but Rhianne refused and explained she did not want this to affect her whilst she was breastfeeding.
"I told her that if her condition decreased then she should come back immediately or go to the accident and emergency department."
He added that an average of just four in 10,000 people are suffer from mastoiditis.
Dr Lina Joseph, a pathologist who carried out a post mortem examination on Statom-Barnett said after giving birth women are more vulnerable to infection.
She added: "This was ill luck and is a very rare complication.
"This could have been a viral infection on top of a bacterial infection.
"This developed rather dramatically and nothing more could have been done. It would have been very hard to stop."
Assistant Coroner John Pollard recorded a conclusion of natural causes and said: "I know that Rhianne was a fit young woman with a baby and had a particularly active lifestyle.
''Her death was sudden and very quick and must have been a massive shock to family and close friends.
"Sadly some things happen and nothing can be done.
''The evidence in this case shows that the doctors and neurological surgeons did everything they could, but unfortunately there was not a lot they could do.
"Rhianne had suffered with a severe ear infection, but sadly there was nothing that could have been done. ''
According to an NHS website, breastfeeding mothers can take ''most'' antibiotics but are advised to always check with their GP, midwife, health visitor or pharmacist.
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