Group B Strep is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies in the UK, and the most common cause of meningitis in babies under age 3 months and yet a lot of pregnant mums know nothing about it!
At least two babies every day in the UK fall ill with Group B Streptococcus (often known as Group B Strep or just GBS). For some, the illness is fatal, for others, it can cause permanent disabilities.
If a woman carries GBS in her vagina and becomes pregnant, there’s a chance that she could pass the bacteria on to the baby during childbirth. For a small number of babies it can be life-threatening, causing blood poisoning, pneumonia and meningitis. This may lead to death in a very small number of cases.
Despite this, there is no routine testing provided on the NHS. Even if a pregnant woman is offered testing it’s usually the Standard ‘non-selective’ test for group B Strep carriage. A negative result using this method is not very reliable – it gives a high proportion of falsely negative results.
When I learned of this I decided to introduce a much more accurate test to my online pharmacy called Webmed Pharmacy. This is the GBS-specific ECM (Enriched Culture Medium), which is the international ‘gold standard’ for detecting GBS. These tests are highly reliable and are good predictors of your GBS carriage status for 5 weeks after the swabs have been taken.
Therefore, it’s best to test in the 5 weeks before you go into labour and give birth. The 35-37 week ‘window’ for testing is usually thought to be the best time to test for most people as your GBS carriage status is not likely to change between testing and giving birth, and you should receive the result before your baby arrives.
If you’re pregnant and concerned about your baby contracting GBS, you can consult your midwife or GP to help you decide whether to get tested.
At Webmed Pharmacy, our testing kit allows you to take both a vaginal swab and a rectal swab to send off for testing. If your results come back positive, you need to tell your midwife or GP. Your birth plan will need to be reconsidered if you’ve intended not to give birth in hospital.
For further information about the test kit, click this link:
When you go into labour or your waters break, let your midwife know immediately. You will need regular injections of antibiotics into a vein throughout the labour. Any allergies to antibiotics must be reported to your midwife so they can ensure hospital staff administer a safe antibiotic for you. The hospital may want to keep a close eye on the newborn baby in case any signs of GBS infection arise, so you may need to stay in hospital for up to twelve hours after the birth as a precaution. If symptoms do appear, the baby will be given urgent antibiotics into a vein.
Hopefully, in the not so distant future, the more accurate ECM test will be available on the NHS to everyone.