Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

If you have any concerns or questions about Group B Streptococcus (GBS) speak to your GP or midwife - this information is a general overview and not intended as professional medical advice.

Group B Streptococcus; also known as Group B Strep or GBS is a bacteria that is carried in the body of about a third of the population at any time. It poses no threat to most healthy adults. But it can cause problems in newborn babies, if their mother is carrying GBS. Women carrying GBS can pass the infection on to their babies during labour.

What are the effects of GBS?

There are two types of GBS; Early Onset which occurs within the first 48 hours of the baby’s life and Late Onset which is detected between 2 days and 3 months (usually during the first month) of life. Early Onset GBS can cause blood poisoning and pneumonia. Late Onset GBS is a form of meningitis.

GBS can lead to the following:

  • Premature birth
  • Still birth
  • Septicaemia (blood poisoning)
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis which can lead to mental and physical disabilities
  • Approximately one in 10 infected babies will die

GBS IS TREATABLE WITH ANTIBIOTICS GIVEN AT BIRTH.

Group B Streptococcus Awareness

How many of you reading this has heard about Group B Streptococcus (GBS)? Did you know the serious problems it can cause? I must admit to having read the name but I didn’t know what it was, until I read an article on it last year. This piece of writing was heartbreaking; the story of a family who lost there baby to GBS. This was made even worse by the fact that this tragedy was preventable.

Accurate screening for GBS is not available on the NHS, it is not deemed cost effective! In many countries it is given routinely. If this happened in the UK many lives could be saved. You may be offered a High Vaginal Swab (HVS) but 50% of women given a negative result will be wrongly diagnosed.

A much more reliable test is The Enriched Culture Method (ECM) which involves a vaginal and rectal swab being taken between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. This test is only available from The Doctors Laboratory. You send off for the test and your GP or Practice Nurse takes the swab from you. The test is then sent back to the lab and you get the results in a few days. This test costs you £32.

To contact The Doctors Laboratory call 020 7460 4800 or email gbs@tdlpathology.com . For more information on the test see The Doctors Laboratory >>

Factors that increase the risk of GBS are:

  • Waters breaking before 37 weeks
  • Onset of early labour before 37 weeks
  • If the mother’s waters break more than 18 hours before birth
  • A raised temperature during delivery
  • If you have already had a baby with GBS

IF ALL HIGH RISK MUMS WERE GIVEN ANTIBIOTICS DURING LABOUR, THEN THE NUMBER OF NEWBORN BABIES INFECTED WOULD DROP BY 80%.

Treating GBS

If a woman is found to have GBS or has a high risk of GBS then antibiotics are given intravenously (through a vein) at 4 hourly intervals during labour. If this is done then in most cases GBS can be avoided.

GBS POSES A HIGH RISK TO BABIES BECAUSE MOST WOMEN ARE UNAWARE OF IT. NO INFORMATION TENDS TO BE GIVEN ON THIS CONDITION, SO MUMS TO BE ARE LEFT IN IGNORANCE.

Group B Strep Support is an organisation that can provide you with support and information. To contact them: info@gbss.org.uk or see Group B Strep Support (GBSS) >>