Group B Streptococcus – Are You Aware?

Group B Streptococcus – Are You Aware?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria (not to be confused with Group A Streptococcus, which causes Strep throat) which is commonly found in the human body. It doesn’t usually cause any symptoms so the vast majority of people are unaware that they have it.

Problems can potentially arise during pregnancy and labour if the mother is a carrier. Currently, a test for GBS is not undertaken routinely in the UK during the antenatal period, unlike in many other developed countries. If Mum is found to be a carrier, preventative measures can be put into place to avoid her passing the bacteria on to her baby, which would otherwise increase the risk of the baby developing a GBS infection.

If a woman is found to have GBS she should be offered intravenous antibiotics from the start of her labour and at various intervals throughout until her child is safely delivered.

Although rare, a GBS infection can cause stillbirth and late miscarriage. Sadly one newborn baby a day develops a GBS infection, with one a week dying as a result of this. Every fortnight a baby will be left with long-term physical or cognitive disabilities as a result of having the infection. It is currently the most common life-threatening infection in newborn babies and the leading cause of meningitis in babies under three months of age.

Although it is important to stress that these complication are rare, it is essential that mothers and healthcare professionals are educated about the risks so that tests can be arranged. The Group B Strep Support charity is currently running a campaign called Why Guess When You Can Test? to try and prevent healthcare providers guessing whether a pregnant woman is carrying GBS. Its aim is that all pregnant women should have access to the gold standard Enriched Culture Medium Test (ECM) rather than relying on the test currently used on the NHS, which can miss up to 50% of carriers. The ultimate aim is that women whose babies are at a high risk can be successfully treated with antibiotics and hopefully avoid the catastrophic impact that a GBS infection can have.

If you or someone you know have any concerns about how your pregnancy and labour have been managed then Wolferstans’ Clinical Negligence specialists can sensitively discuss and deal with this for you. If you would like to have a free initial discussion without any obligation then please contact Ann Ball on 01752 292374 or email her at

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