Currently, national guidelines to prevent group B Strep infections in newborn babies recommend a ‘risk factor’ approach. The risk factors use to determine which women to offer antibiotics in labour 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.
The risk factor strategy was introduced in the UK in 2003 but it has not reduced the rate of early-onset GBS infections in babies, which has risen. Up to 40% of babies who do become affected are born to mothers without any of the risk factors that should prompt the offer of antibiotics in labour, apart from the mother unknowingly carrying GBS.
Testing is the only way to identify whether you are carrying GBS. When GBS is detected during pregnancy, steps can be taken to minimise the risk of the 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, and the ECM (enriched culture medium) test described by Public Health England in their B58 is not usually available within the NHS.