Raising awareness of Group B Strep is the focus during July for the National charity Group B Strep Support, and they have discovered that 50% of expectant/new Mums have not heard of group B Strep.  Why not?

With one baby every week dying from Group B Strep, that is just one too many! So here at babyworld we are very keen to help raise the awareness to our expectant and new mums about this infection and help the charity made pregnant women aware.

The national charity Group B Strep Support wants every pregnant woman made aware of group B Strep so that more of these devastating infections in newborn babies can be prevented and for there to be even more healthy baby success stories.

What is Group B Strep?

Group B Strep is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies – causing septicaemia, pneumonia and meningitis.  Carried naturally by 2-3 pregnant women in every 10, group B Strep is rarely dangerous to the Mum but, if passed onto a baby around birth, can have potentially devastating consequences for the baby.

New data from Bounty’s ‘Word of Mum’ research panel, released for July’s Group B Strep Awareness Month, shows that of the 4,673 new and expectant mums who took part:

  • 53% had never heard of group B Strep
  • 96% said all pregnant women should be informed about group B Strep
  • 94% would take a group B Strep-specific test during their current pregnancy if freely available on the NHS
  • 91% said all pregnant women should be told about the option of having the test privately
    • 58% would pay the £35 (approximately) to have the test privately
    • 27% couldn’t afford the cost of a private test
    • 15% did not think the test is needed

Public Health England recently updated guidance on the group B Strep-specific ECM (enriched culture medium) test.  Group B Strep Support is calling for these ‘gold standard’ tests, which cost the NHS £11 each, to be routinely available within the NHS.

Finding out whether a Mum is carrying group B Strep late in pregnancy is safe and easy. Antibiotics (usually narrow-spectrum penicillin) given in labour to women who are carrying group B Strep reduces the baby’s risk of infection by over 80%.

Many developed countries routinely offer pregnant women testing for group B Strep carriage and have seen their incidence of group B Strep infections in newborn babies dramatically fall – in Spain by 86%, the USA by over 80% and France by 71%.  By contrast, UK, the number has risen by 21% since national ‘risk-based’ guidelines were introduced in 2003.

“Why aren’t we telling pregnant women about group B Strep? Why aren’t we giving our busy health professionals access to group B Strep specific tests? If Mum knows she’s carrying GBS late in pregnancy, she can make an informed decision about what’s best for her and her baby based on fact.

The UK’s current guidelines were expected to reduce early-onset group B Strep infections in the UK by up to 60%. They haven’t, they’ve failed – using risk factors to determine which women are likely to be carrying group B Strep is little more than guesswork. It’s time to change.”

Jane Plumb MBE, chief executive of Group B Strep Support

A petition www.change.org./GBS launched on 1 July 2015 (currently over 6,000 signatures) is calling for every pregnant woman to be:

  • Offered information about group B Strep
  • Offered the GBS-specific ECM test for group B Strep carriage and
  • Offered antibiotics in labour if group B Strep is detected during the current pregnancy, or where other recognised risk factors are present

For information about group B Strep, visit www.gbss.org.uk.

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