Currently, national guidelines recommend a ‘risk factor’ approach to determine which women should be offered antibiotics in labour to prevent GBS infection in newborn babies. The risk factors include group B Strep being detected during the current pregnancy, Mum having previously had a baby with GBS infection and Mum having a high temperature during labour.
Unfortunately, this strategy (introduced in the UK in 2003) has not reduced the rate of early-onset GBS infections in babies, which has risen. Up to 40% of babies infected are born to mothers without any of these risk factors, apart from the mother unknowingly carrying GBS.
Testing is the only way to know if you are carrying GBS during pregnancy. If you are, steps can be taken to minimise the risk of your newborn baby developing GBS infection. Routine screening of all pregnant women for GBS is not recommended by the UK National Screening Committee nor the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. The ECM (enriched culture medium) test for detecting GBS carriage, described by Public Health England’s UK Standard B58, is not usually available within the NHS. Here is some information about testing for group B Strep carriage, including where to obtain tests following PHE’s