Baby charity Group B Strep Support is urging pregnant women to make sure they’re aware of group B Strep (GBS or Strep B), and the risk it can pose to their baby.
Group B Strep is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies, causing sepsis and pneumonia, and of meningitis in babies under 3 months. Carried normally by one in every four women, the group B Strep bacteria can pass from a pregnant woman to her baby around birth with potentially devastating consequences for the baby.
On average in the UK:
• One baby a day develops group B Strep infection
• One baby a week dies from group B Strep infection
• One baby a fortnight survives group B Strep infection but is left with long-term disabilities
Yet, unlike most other developed countries, health professionals in the UK rarely tell pregnant women about GBS and even more rarely offers pregnant women sensitive testing* for it.
Group B Strep is a normal bacterium carried by around 25% of women. Rarely a risk to women, it can be passed onto baby around labour and birth with potentially devastating consequences for the newborn baby.
Over 500 babies a year in the UK are infected with group B Strep. And, in the UK, the number of newborn babies developing group B Strep infection is rising – up by 38% since the UK introduced prevention measures in 2003.
Other countries, which routinely offer pregnant women testing have seen rates of group B Strep infection in newborn babies fall dramatically – by up to 86%.
If group B Strep is detected during the current pregnancy, UK guidelines recommend that Mum should be offered intravenous (through a vein) antibiotics from the start of labour and at regular intervals until delivery. This is highly effective at reducing the risk of the newborn baby developing group B Strep infection.
The only easy and reliable way to find out whether or not a pregnant woman is carrying group B Strep is by purchasing a home-testing pack privately (under £40 per test). The laboratories listed at www.gbss.org.uk/test offer the sensitive test for GBS carriage, following the UK standard – unlike the large majority of NHS trusts.
National charity Group B Strep Support campaigns for greater awareness of group B Strep in new and expectant parents and wants every pregnant woman in the UK to be given accurate information about group B Strep as a routine part of antenatal care, coupled with the offer of testing for group B Strep carriage at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy.
For information on group B Strep, please visit http://www.gbss.org.uk