ASK THE EXPERT
SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT STREP B?
AS July is Group B Strep Awareness Month, this is how mums-to-be can find out if they are a carrier.
I’M pregnant and have heard some scary stories about group B strep. What is it and how can I avoid my baby getting it?
JANE PLUMB, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, says: “Group B strep can sound scary, but you can take steps to protect your baby.
“Group B streptococcus (group B strep or strep B) is a common bacterium. In women, it’s often found in the vagina and usually causes no harm.
“Although it’s perfectly normal, group B strep causes serious infection in about 800 babies in the UK every year – typically sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis during their first three months. Without urgent antibiotics, these infections can be life-threatening.
“The good news is that most group B strep infection in newborn babies can be prevented. Giving intravenous antibiotics – ideally penicillin – from the start of labour to women carrying group B strep reduces the risk by 85-90%.
“Most developed countries offer pregnant women testing and antibiotics are offered in labour.
“In the UK, there’s no universal screening programme, and the antibiotics are offered when any of the following risk factors arise: If you’ve previously had a baby who had GBS infection; if GBS has been detected from any tests taken during the current or previous pregnancy; if your labour starts before 37 weeks; or if you have a temperature of more than 38°C during labour.
“If group B strep was detected in the previous pregnancy, a woman should be offered the option of testing in her next pregnancy, with antibiotics offered if the result is positive. This was a recommendation in 2017 and is not yet offered at all maternity units.
“If you don’t qualify for a GBS test or your local maternity unit isn’t able to offer the test (the ECM or enriched culture medium test), then these tests are available privately from £35 for a home-testing pack. We maintain a list of ECM test suppliers.”
FOR more information ask your midwife for the new leaflet written by Group B Strep Support and the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.