Group B Strep: Is It Time Pregnant Women Were Offered Screening?

13/01/2014 15:41 | Updated 22 May 2015

Group B strep: Is it time we were offered screening?Rex

The day after my first daughter Ava was born, I noticed there was something wrong.

It seems funny to say that as I had only known her for one day and one night, and yet I knew her. She was making weird little jerking movements – she wasn't just startling as tiny babies do, she looked like she was having tiny little fits, and her moans told me something was upsetting or hurting her.

Naturally, sod's law dictated that she had these episodes when only I was looking, and they stopped instantly I could get a doctor or midwife to take a look. They didn't even take her temperature. But after several hours of pushing, undeterred by staff thinking I was an hysterical new mother, they agreed to test her.

They did a lumbar puncture (I couldn't watch) and various blood tests, after which they told me they had found 'an infection' and they put her straight on to a week's course of antibiotics. They allowed me to stay in hospital for the entire week to be with her.

I never dug, or insisted they tell me what that mystery infection was, so I don't know to this day. I was hazy and ill from labour followed by a C-section. I was exhausted and just happy my baby girl was being treated. Whatever it was, it was caught early.

But since then I have heard quite a lot about group B strep, a bacteria which can be passed from mother to baby during birth (natural or C-section). It affects one in every 2,000 infants, and is the leading cause of serious infections in newborns.


It's relatively rare and most babies make a full recovery when it's found and treated – but occasionally the effects can be devastating; early onset can lead to pneumonia, meningitis and blood poisoning, and 10 of women think group B strep information and testing should be offered to pregnant women across the board.

While some experts are concerned that routinely offering antibiotics to pregnant women testing positive might cause the bacteria to develop a resistance, GBSS says that hasn't happened in over 15 years of antibiotics being offered in the USA, and is adamant that screening is the only way to go.

Jane Plumb added: "The financial and human costs of these infections are significant – and all the more heartbreaking because they are usually preventable.

"In countries which routinely screen, the incidence of group B strep infections in newborns has fallen by 80% or more. What is currently done in the UK to prevent these infections simply isn't working – it's time to change to something which has been tried and tested, has been shown to work and is something that women want: antenatal group B strep screening."

GBSS has set up a web page with detailed information about the consultation and the various ways people can respond to the NSC. GBSS can also be contacted on 01444 416176.

The public consultation closes on October 23 2012.

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