You may have heard that not all tests are equal in terms of reliability, and that is true.
Despite some of the testing methods being more accurate than others, it is unlikely that a test will give a false positive result (ie detecting GBS when GBS is not present). So, with all test methods, a positive result is a strong indication that you were carrying GBS when the swabs were taken.
Any positive GBS test result during pregnancy means that the pregnant woman should be offered intravenous antibiotics from the start of labour and then usually 4-hourly until delivery. Your health professionals should discuss this with you.
The reliability of a negative GBS result, however, depends on which test was used:
Standard Direct Plating (HVS) (more info here)
Whilst a positive HVS result is highly reliable, a negative one is not. This test only finds GBS around half the times it should. So around half of those who are carrying GBS will be incorrectly told they are not. So trust a positive direct plating result, but be wary of a negative one.
Enriched Culture Method (ECM) (more info here)
This test is recognised as the best for detecting GBS carriage and is becoming increasingly available within the NHS, It has been specifically designed for finding GBS and is highly sensitive.
Research shows that, if the ECM test is performed within 5 weeks of delivery, a negative result is 96% predictive of not carrying GBS at delivery (ie around 4% of women acquired GBS between the test and giving birth) and a positive result is 87% predictive of carrying GBS at delivery (so 13% of women lost carriage between performing the test and giving birth). A negative ECM test result within 5 weeks of delivery means you would not be offered intravenous antibiotics from the onset of labour against GBS infection in your newborn baby unless known risk factors are present.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test (see more on this method here)
A PCR test is unlikely to give a falsely negative result. Its accuracy is comparable, if not better than the ECM test. However, it is not widely available in the UK at present.
If known risk factors for GBS infection developing in a newborn baby are present, and no ECM test result is available OR the less sensitive Standard Direct Plating test was negative, then you should be offered intravenous antibiotics during labour against GBS infection in your newborn baby (click here for more information on risk factors).