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What is Group B Strep? Everything you need to know

Photo: PA Images

If you're worried about the issues brought up in Mel Barham's story today, then the information below may help.

What is Group B Strep

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a normal bacterium which is carried by up to a third of adults, most commonly in the gut, and for up to 25% of women, in the vagina, usually without symptoms or side-effects. It is not a sexually transmitted disease.

In the UK, pregnant women are not routinely offered testing for group B Strep, unlike in many other developed countries.

How do I get tested?

Sensitive tests designed to detect group B Strep carriage are available, but rarely within the NHS. If you’re interested in finding out whether you carry group B Strep, the sensitive ‘ECM’ (Enriched Culture Medium) test is available from those listed at www.gbss.org.uk/test. The ECM test is recognised as the ‘gold standard’ for detecting group B Strep carriage (click here to read Public Health England’s guidelines for this test).

It’s good to know if you carry group B Strep during your pregnancy so preventative action can be taken to minimise the chance of your newborn baby developing group B Strep infection.

If group B Strep is detected at any time during your pregnancy, you should be offered intravenous antibiotics from the start of your labour and regularly until your baby is born.

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Two babies a day develop Group B Strep infection in the UK
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One baby a week dies from Group B Strep infection in the UK
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One baby a week survives Group B Strep infection but is left disabled in the UK

According to the Group B Strep Support charity, pregnant women carrying group B Strep is perfectly normal.

GBS can be present at any time – in a woman’s first pregnancy, or in one or more subsequent pregnancies. However, It can be a threat during pregnancy, around delivery and afterwards.

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Risk factors for group B Strep infection

  • Mothers who have previously had a baby infected with GBS – risk is increased 10 times
  • Mothers where GBS has been found in the urine at any time in this pregnancy – risk is increased 4 times
  • Mothers who have been shown to carry GBS in this pregnancy – risk is increased 3 times

The following clinical risk factors also increase the chance of a baby developing a GBS infection

  • Mothers who have a raised temperature* during labour of 37.8°C or higher – risk is increased 4 times
  • Labour starts or waters break before 37 weeks of pregnancy (i.e. preterm) – risk is increased 3 times
  • Waters break more than 18 hours before delivery – risk is increased 3 times

The Group B Strep charity have produced a video to warn expectant mothers of the danger of the infection. You can watch it below.

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