The ECM test (Enriched Culture Medium test) is the international ‘gold standard’ for detecting group B Strep carriage, recognised in Public Health England’s UK Standard. It is highly sensitive and has been used as standard for decades in many developed countries.
The ECM test is rarely available within the NHS (but do ask your trust if they offer the ECM test). Over half of UK maternity units offer some testing for GBS carriage, but rarely the ECM test, using a much less sensitive method that will miss up to half of carriers. We want ECM testing to be made freely available to all pregnant women on the NHS.
We don’t sell ECM tests, but signpost to reputable organisations that do. We are delighted to have partnerships with a number of the providers listed below, though receive no referral fees from any firm. It is entirely your decision which if any you contact and any contact you have with them is completely confidential between you and them.
Home Testing Services
The home testing pack, processing the swabs and sending you the results costs less than £40. You can watch a YouTube video about self-testing here.
If you purchase a home testing pack, follow the instructions and keep the insert for future reference.
A number of other organisations offer the ECM test following Public Health England’s guidelines and those we know of include:
GBS home testing packs ordered from private organisations are usually sent out the same day.
You can take the samples yourself, following the simple instructions provided – most women don’t find this difficult. You can ask your health professional, who may charge a fee for doing this.
The samples deteriorate over time, so, if you can, take the swabs and post them to the laboratory on Monday to Thursday. Keep the information leaflet that came with the pack for future reference. The lab will send out the results within 3 working days of receiving your samples.
When filling in the form, please ensure your health professional is also sent a copy of the results – the return forms allow space for you to provide contact details. You can also opt to receive your result by SMS text message, as well as by post.
If you are or have recently been taking antibiotics, please be aware this may affect the result of your GBS test. Please discuss this with your health professionals.
Click here for more information about what the result of your test for group B Strep carriage means.
Testing at Private Clinics
You can go to a small number of private clinics to be tested for group B Strep carriage – they will take the swabs for you (or you can take them yourself if you prefer) and will send you the results by post, email or text. Some may also call you with the result. The charges will be higher for this personal service than the cost of home-testing packs.
The private clinics we know use follow PHE’s recommendations for ECM testing are:
- The Doctors Laboratory (London) – 020 7307 7383 / [email protected]
- Innermost Healthcare (Cardiff) – 0345 230 3386 / [email protected]
- 3fivetwo (Belfast) – 0845 60 06 35 / [email protected]
- Brandwood Clinic (Solihull) – 0121 296 9280 / [email protected]
- Lanes Practice (Stoke Poges) – 01753 662244 / [email protected]
- Well Woman & Baby Room (Shoreham-by-Sea) – 07913 208149 / [email protected]
- Preview Baby (Hitchin) – 01462 338100 / [email protected]
Group B Strep Support endorses the availability of sensitive prenatal GBS testing. Please note that we provide the name and contact information for private ECM test providers – we don’t have the resources to check their performance in terms of speed or accuracy. Please provide us with feedback on the services provided by email to us at [email protected].
Group B Strep Support is completely independent – we receive no funding from the Government or the NHS, and we do not accept commission or referral fees for the sale of GBS tests, nor fees for referring to other organisations, though we are delighted to have partnerships with a number of the providers listed above. As more organisations offer GBS-specific testing, NHS and private companies, we will provide details.