Due dateSome 97% of women think all pregnant women should routinely be offered a reliable test for group B Strep (group B Streptococcus or GBS), according to new data just published. 

The research, conducted among 2,102 pregnant women on Bounty's 'Word of Mum' Research Panel, showed that 41% of women had not heard of group B Strep.

Of those who had heard of group B Strep, 33% of women had heard about it from a midwife, GP practice or antenatal class, 67% had heard of it from other sources, almost half of these from a pregnancy book or magazine. 

Meanwhile, of the 44% of women who had heard of group B Strep, more than half had either not found any or not found enough information.

Almost one newborn baby a day in England, Wales & Northern Ireland suffers group B Strep infection, the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborn babies. One in 10 of these sick babies will die and a further one in 20 of the survivors will suffer long-term physical or mental disabilities.

Carrying group B Strep during pregnancy, which some 25% of women do, is recognised as a key risk factor for group B Strep infection in newborn babies and yet, as these new data show, most women are not being told about group B Strep by their health professionals. 

Group B Strep infection in babies is up to 90% preventable when antibiotics are given in labour to women found to carry group B Strep by sensitive testing at 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is standard practice in many developed countries. 

Countries which routinely offer antenatal testing for group B Strep have seen 71-86% reductions in the incidence of these devastating infections in newborn babies, while in the UK the incidence rose in the decade to 2010 by 46% (0.28 per 1,000 live births in 2000, 0.41 per 1,000 live births in 2010). The UK used a risk-based prevention strategy, introduced in 2003, and sensitive tests for group B Strep carriage are not widely available within the NHS. The data suggest this strategy isn't having the desired effect. 

Jane Plumb, chief executive of national charity Group B Strep Support, said: "These latest data confirm what we hear all the time – women want to be informed about group B Strep, offered a reliable test in pregnancy and, when group B Strep is found or other risk factors arise, offered preventative antibiotics in labour. And they simply can't understand why this happens in other countries but not here. 

“To think that in 2013 women aren't even being told about what is recognised as the most common cause of severe infection in newborn babies is astounding."

About 95% of the women interviewed said that they would take a test for group B Strep in pregnancy if offered without charge by the NHS, while 60% would pay the £35 to do it privately.
Plumb added: "Just why health professionals aren't telling pregnant women about group B Strep remains a mystery. If they're concerned that it will worry them, this new data suggest otherwise.

“When asked whether knowing about GBS affected their enjoying their pregnancy, nearly 9 out of 10 said it would not. Women are clearly keen both to be told about GBS and offered testing."