group B streptococcus (GBS)

Hi everyone. Hope you're all well. Someone mentioned this to my husband the other day so I've done a little reading and I'm torn. The NHS doesn't offer to test for GBS pre-birth - you have to do it privately. Instances of babies with GBS are rare but they do happen and then (even more rarely) sometimes newborns get really sick and even die.

But the numbers are miniscule:

One in every 2000 newborn babies in the UK and Ireland is diagnosed with GBS infection. Although the infection can make the baby very unwell, with prompt treatment the majority (7 out of 10 of diagnosed babies) recover fully. However, 2 in 10 babies with GBS infection will recover with some level of disability, and 1 in 10 infected babies will die. Overall, 1 in 17000 newborn babies in the UK and Ireland die from the infection.

The reasons that the current guidelines ( don't recommend routine testing for expectant mothers seem to make sense to me because at present, there is no clear evidence to show that testing for GBS routinely would do more good than harm:

•The current UK rate of early onset GBS is comparable to that in countries in which screening is recommended. A significant burden of disease is found in risk groups whose management would not be affected by a screening programme. The ability of screening to significantly impact on mortality and long term morbidity caused by GBS is uncertain.

• Many women carry the bacteria and, in the majority of cases, their babies are born safely and without developing an infection.

• Screening all women late in pregnancy cannot predict which babies will develop GBS infection.

• No screening test is entirely accurate. A negative swab test does not guarantee that you are not a carrier of GBS. In other words, you may be given a negative result when in fact you do carry GBS in your vagina.

• In addition, the majority of babies who are severely affected from GBS infection are born prematurely, before the suggested time for screening.

• Giving all carriers of GBS antibiotics would mean that a very large number of women at very low risk would receive treatment they do not need.

• There is also the general risk from overuse of antibiotics leading to strains of bacteria becoming resistant.

More info:

handy leaflet to download:

So I guess my question is - has anyone got any experience of this? Has anyone been screened?

All opinions/experiences welcomed!


6 Replies

  • My first born had a group b infection and at 7 days old was hospitalised and given intravenous antibiotics, he made a full recovery. I've since had two children who have not been affected nor was I given antibiotics during labour.

    Group b bacteria is incredibly common and present in most of us and generally harmless to adults. Testing procedures are extremely flawed due to the nature of the infection. The tests only reveals whether the bacteria/infection is active at the time of testing. Thus a negative result does not necessarily mean there is no active infection present at labour and vice versa which makes NHS testing a waste of scarce resources.

    Having a private test is entirely your decision however it offers no guarantees. Personally I think the emphasis should be on wether or not the symptoms are present in the in the baby's first week.

  • Thanks so much for responding.

  • Neither of mine had it but I got tested for both of mine using this private test for about £40. I felt it was worth the money though not everyone agrees.

  • Thanks SilkeP, always good to hear both sides.

  • I had it but they only found out after I experienced some bleeding at 30 weeks and did an internal examination / swab. If they know then they can deal with it should there be a problem. I had a c-section so it wasn't going to be much of an issue. If you think of all the women who conceive and give birth whilst possibly having this bacteria and they give birth to healthy babies it seems unnecessary to provide the test, even though there will be some unfortunate situations I guess they only have so much funding.

  • Thanks crystal2013 that's a really good point.

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