Currently, UK 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 are group B Strep being detected during the current pregnancy, Mum having previously had a baby with GBS infection and Mum having a high temperature in labour). However, the rate of GBS infections in babies has risen, not fallen. and up to 40% of newborn babies with GBS infection have no risk factors, apart from their mother unknowingly carrying GBS.
Testing is the only way to know if you are carrying GBS. If you are, steps can be taken that minimise the risk of your newborn baby developing GBS infection. However, routine screening of all pregnant women for GBS is not currently recommended by the UK National Screening Committee or the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.
The ECM (enriched culture medium) test is currently the best test available for detecting GBS carriage. This method is recommended by Public Health England in their UK Standard B58 but it is not usually available within the NHS.
Below is more information about testing for group B Strep carriage, including where to obtain ECM tests that follow PHE’s UK Standard.