Pregnant women are not being told about group B Strep – yet it’s the biggest cause of severe infection in newborn babies (and the major cause of meningitis in babies under 3 months). Fewer than 50% of pregnant mums have even heard of group B Strep, and of those, only a third learned about it from their health professionals. This is not good enough. When pregnant mums know about group B Strep, most of these serious infections in newborn babies can be prevented. Prevention is better than cure.
Until informing pregnant mums about group B Strep is a routine part of antenatal care, raising awareness among pregnant women is vital.
July is International Group B Strep Awareness Month and national charity, Group B Strep Support, is urging pregnant Mums and expectant Dads to find out about group B Strep.
Charity Patron, Dr Chris Steele, from ITV’s This Morning says: “It could save your baby’s life – group B Strep infections in newborn babies can usually be prevented. I’d like to see every pregnant woman in the UK offered testing for GBS – this test is a routine part of antenatal care in many countries including Canada, France, Germany and the USA. Until then, raising awareness is the key to saving babies’ lives. Get informed and protect your baby.”
Group B Strep is a common bacterium carried by approximately one in every 4 adults, usually unknowingly and without symptoms. Normally harmless to adults, it can be passed from mum to baby around birth with potentially devastating consequences. Without preventative medicine, one in every 300 newborn babies born to women carrying group B Strep will develop the infection. Happily most babies will recover with prompt in-patient treatment, but on average one baby dies every week from group B Strep infection, and one baby a fortnight is left with lifelong disability.
Jane Plumb MBE, chief executive of Group B Strep Support says, “Every mother-to-be should be informed about group B Strep during routine antenatal care and, if she wants to be tested for it in pregnancy, the ‘gold standard’ ECM test should be available on the NHS. Most group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented. Knowing whether a Mum carries group B Strep enables her to make an informed decision about what’s right for her and her unborn baby.” When a woman is known to carry group B Strep during her pregnancy, UK guidelines recommend she is offered intravenous antibiotics in labour to minimise the risk of her newborn baby developing infection. These targeted antibiotics are highly effective – reducing the risk of an infection developing in a newborn baby born to a woman carrying group B Strep from one in every 300 to one in 6000. But without informing women, and offering them the opportunity to be tested, most women don’t know about group B Strep, or even whether they carry group B Strep. To mark Group B Strep Awareness Month and the charity’s 20th birthday, at 7am every morning in July, Group B Strep Support will share a “Fact-a-day” on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram). These concise facts will be interesting to anyone – and particularly new/ expectant parents (and grandparents) and health professionals. In addition, free patient information leaflets and other materials are available from http://gbss.org.uk/leaflets-downloads/leaflets-printed/