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 (do ask your trust – it may be one of those that offer it). 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.
Home Testing Services
We don’t sell ECM tests, but signpost to reputable organisations that do. We receive no commission from the sale of GBS tests, nor referral fees. We continue to push for ECM testing to be made freely available on the NHS.
The home testing pack, processing the swabs and sending you the results costs from £35. You can watch a YouTube video about self-testing here.
If you purchase a home testing pack, please keep the insert for future reference.
GBS Test 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.
What do the test results mean?
- A GBS GREEN message means the result for GBS is NEGATIVE and intravenous antibiotics are not indicated.
- A GBS RED message means the result for GBS is POSITIVE during your pregnancy and intravenous (not oral) antibiotics should be offered from the onset of labour and then at intervals until delivery.
Testing at Private Clinics
The following provide a personal service for ECM GBS testing. Make an appointment and they will take the swabs for you (or you take them yourself if you prefer that) and will send you the results by post, email or text. Their charges will be higher for this personal service.
Group B Strep Support endorses the availability of reliable prenatal GBS testing. Please note that the charity provides the name and address of private clinics and laboratories – we don’t have the resources to check their performance in terms of speed or accuracy. If you would like to provide us with feedback on the services provided, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. As more organisations offer GBS-specific testing, NHS and private companies, we will provide their details.