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Group B Strep infection: WHY GUESS when you can test?

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    The charity Group B Strep Support have recently launched a new campaign “WHY GUESS? when you can test” to encourage all pregnant woman to get tested for carriage of GBS infection so that their unborn baby can be protected from risk of infection during birth.

    By Kerstin Kubiak

What is Group B Strep infection?

GBS is carried harmlessly by many woman within the vagina; during a natural birth or when there has been prolonged rupture of the amniotic membranes during labour there is a risk of the infection passing to the baby.  Whilst most babies who are colonised with GBS prior to or during their birth do not go on to suffer as a consequence, but for those who do, the effects can be catastrophic.

I have blogged frequently on this subject in the past and its something I feel very strongly about, for a simple and inexpensive test could mean all the difference in preventing a potentially serious infection affecting your new born baby.

The “WHY GUESS” campaign highlights some startling statistics:

– One newborn per day develops GBS infection
– One newborn a week dies from GBS infection
– One baby a fortnight suffers long term serious injuries after surviving an infection

So why would you risk it?

During my pregnancy with my first child there was no doubt in my mind I would get tested for GBS infection; I have conducted too many cases relating to the poor management of GBS infection risk to have contemplated taking a chance with my own baby.

The test was easy to order, undertake and send off; it really was no fuss with results coming through to me by text message and letter within a few days. If the result is negative you can feel very reassured. In the event of a positive test mothers can notify their midwives and ensure they receive prophylactic antibiotics during labour to protect their unborn baby from contracting the infection.

How can you test?

The campaign by GBS Support stresses the importance of ordering a specialist ECM (enriched culture medium test), which is a very accurate “gold method” of testing for infection.

It’s extremely frustrating that the NHS do not provide this test as in other countries, and therefore it needs to be funded privately, hopefully this will change and this is the subject of ongoing campaigns.  In the meantime the cost of £30 to test seems to me to be well worth the price tag!

A list of companies who offer testing and who will send out the testing kits is available on the GBS Support website along with lots of other help and guidance for concerned parents.

Get on board:

The charity is asking people to raise awareness of GBS and the need to get testing. You can promote the campaign through social media and by supporting their Facebook page. I was really impressed to see information on GBS provided in an advertisement within the maternity information booklet I was given – spreading the word and informing women is key to tackling this infection.

If you are concerned about GBS infection you should speak to your healthcare professional or contact GBS Support for guidance. If you feel you have been affected by poor medical care relating to the management of GBS infection please do contact me or my colleague Hannah Blackwell, as we are both specialists in dealing with these cases.

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