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What is Group B strep and how do I know if I have it?

You might have heard talk of Group B Strep and how it can be dangerous to your unborn baby. Find out more


Posted: 16 March 2010
by Liz Jarvis

What is Group B strep?
Group B Strep can cause serious side effects

 Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterium that lives quite harmlessly in various parts of the body. A quarter of women of childbearing age carry GBS in their vagina and rectum without showing any symptoms.

In labour, however, there is a risk that the infection can be passed to the baby, which can cause serious side effects. Current figures suggest that one in 1000 babies suffer with complications associated with GBS which include preterm delivery, maternal infections, stillbirths and late miscarriages. Fortunately though, these complications are rare. More commonly, newborns can suffer long-term mental or physical handicap, ranging from mild learning disabilities to loss of sight, loss of hearing and lung damage.

Pregnant women whose babies are most at risk of developing GBS infections are those whose have tested positive to a GBS test during pregnancy, those delivering prematurely, those whose waters have broken more than 24 hours before delivery, or mums-to-be who have tested positive for GBS in a previous pregnancy.

However, the NHS currently doesn’t routinely test for GBS during pregnancy. This is because it’s a transient infection, which means you can be positive one week and negative the next.

GBS can be treated with a series of antibiotics during labour but only mums-to-be in high-risk categories are currently offered antibiotics. Their babies are then monitored for 24 hours for any signs of infection, which range from irritability, respiratory distress and poor feeding, to septicaemia, meningitis and pneumonia.

There is currently a campaign for the test, known as the Enriched Culture Method, to be made routine in the UK. Meanwhile, tests are available privately, for more information visit GBS.


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pregnancy, antibiotics, NHS, labour, stillbirth, miscarriage, Group B strep
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Discuss this story

"However, the NHS currently doesn’t routinely test for GBS during pregnancy. This is because it’s a transient infection, which means you can be positive one week and negative the next."

The evidence shows that a woman's GBS carriage status is likely to be the same for at least 5 weeks following a sensitive Group B Strep Test (Yancey MK, Schuchat A, Brown LK, Ventura VL, Markenson GR. The accuracy of late antenatal screening cultures in predicting genital group B streptococcal colonization at delivery. Obstet Gynecol 1996; 88(5):811-815 and Benitz WE, Gould JB, Druzin ML. Risk factors for early-onset group B streptococcal sepsis: estimation of odds ratios by critical literature review. Pediatrics 1999; 103(6):e77) so a sensitive test done at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy is very likely to predict what a woman's GBS carriage status is when she goes into labour.

Posted: 22/09/2011 at 10:41

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