If you are wondering what Group B Streptococcus (GBS) to give it its full name is, then you are not alone. Despite 20-40% of woman carrying this bacteria here in the UK awareness of it is limited and routine testing for it is non-existent.
GBS is a bacteria and carried by up to 40% of women, whilst harmless to those that carry it there is a danger it can be passed to a baby during the birth. If you look hard enough around Twitter and forums you will find the tragic stories of those whose babies have developed GBS infections shortly after birth, leading to meningitis, deafness and on occasion the ultimate tragedy. The sad truth about this infection is that it can be prevented with a test that costs around £10 and antibiotics during labour. It is worth mentioning this test is available privately and costs somewhere in the region of £35.
So why am I writing about this? Well I guess you could say we are one of the lucky ones. My partner was in hospital for some tests following a urine infection during her pregnancy, this turned out to be nothing serious but the tests and swabs that were done uncovered her as a carrier of GBS. During labour she got the antibiotics needed meaning there was little to no danger to our little man when he was born. We had never even heard of it before that test was done let alone the potential risks to our unborn child.
Let me give you a stat 700 babies develop GBS infections every year and 10% of those end in tragic circumstances.
In the USA they test routinely for GBS in all pregnant woman at 35-37 weeks but in the UK we do not WHY? We make all of these informed choices as parents about Down’s testing, and various other screening tests both during pregnancy and once the baby is born, but not once are we given any information about GBS. The NHS is all about enabling us to make informed choices yet has made the decision for us, to not screen for GBS like so many countries do.
The Group B Strep Support have done some tireless work for many years to try to raise awareness and their website is certainly worth a look at. The home page also has a petition to try to get this debated in parliament which I would ask anyone reading this to take 2 minutes to sign.