Why Group B Strep Testing Is So Important

11th July 2022

Did you know that we offer Group B Strep testing? It is the most common cause of sepsis (a potentially life-threatening condition) in newborn babies.

It is not mentioned heavily in mainstream media, nor are mums taught much about it during pregnancy. It is a type of bacteria that can be passed from mother to baby during labour and birth, and it can have a serious impact on both.

The lack of education on this matter means that a lot of pregnant women do not have the chance to access routine tests. As a result, many mothers are unaware that they ever carry the bacteria. 

This can cause a number of implications for pregnancies – so in this blog post, we are going to take a closer look at Group B Strep (GBS) and explain why we offer tests as part of our service.

Group B Strep Testing

What Is It?

GBS is a type of bacteria that is found in the digestive system, rectum and the vagina. Around 20-40% of women carry it, but most will never know as there are usually no symptoms in adults.

Due to the close proximity of the rectum, vagina and urethra, it is fairly easy for it to migrate and be passed on to the baby during pregnancy or birth. While the bacteria usually doesn’t cause a problem, there is a chance it can cause serious problems for both mother and baby, including sepsis, miscarriage, pneumonia, meningitis, and urinary tract infections.

The risk of your baby contracting the infection is higher if:

  • They were born prematurely
  • You’ve had a baby who was previously affected by GBS
  • Your temperature was high during labour
  • Your waters broke more than 24 hours before the baby was born

Signs Of Early-Onset Infection In Babies

Without routine Group B Strep testing, the infection is usually not picked up until the first week of life. Most symptoms will be noticeable within the first 24 hours of birth and so it is important to keep an eye out for them.

  • Floppy/unresponsive
  • Vomiting
  • High or low temperature
  • Significantly fast or slow heart rate
  • Major breathing changes
  • Persistent crying
  • Blotchy skin

You should contact your GP if you are worried about any of these symptoms or go to the emergency department if the baby is struggling to breathe or becomes unresponsive. 

Late-Onset Infection In Babies

The infection can also present later on in life, up to around three months. The symptoms are similar to those of early-onset infection but may be more subtle, so it is important to be aware of them.

  • Fever
  • Poor feeding
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Irritability/excessive crying
  • Lethargy/tiredness/unusual sleepiness

It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so if you are worried about your baby, please contact your GP or health visitor.

Group B Strep Testing

As mentioned before, it is important to remember that if not treated in a timely manner, there is a chance of life-threatening infections such as sepsis. This is why we believe it is important for women to have the choice of testing and be aware of their options both before and after labour.

A negative result offers peace of mind whereas even a positive one provides a better chance of successful treatment and a healthy mum and baby.

Why Our Tests Are Important

There are a number of reasons why we offer routine Group B Strep testing and want more people to be aware of the service.

Many people do not jump at the chance for a test because the bacteria can be present in low numbers without causing any harm. In these cases, it is not necessary to treat the infection as it will go away on its own. And there have been some cases where women have been treated unnecessarily while pregnant.

In fact, it is uncommon for the infection to be passed on at all. Despite this fact, the possible outcome for those who do contract the bacteria can be fatal. It is for this reason that many women choose to get tested at private health clinics like our own.

Knowing whether or not you carry the bacteria gives you the opportunity to make informed decisions about your care during pregnancy and offers peace of mind that could improve your overall journey to parenthood.

What Is Group B Strep Testing Like?

The procedure at our clinic is very simple and involves a swab of the vagina and rectum. We send this off for analysis and the results come back in a few days.

Ideally, we recommend women have the test around 35 weeks of pregnancy but, of course, before labour starts. The cost of the swab is £99 and you can book online or call 01483 454 016.

If you do test positive after having the test, we will send a referral letter to your GP and advise you to contact your midwife. This way we can ensure a strong plan is created for your treatment before delivery.

In this case, IV antibiotics are usually given during labour. It is entirely your choice to receive them and if you decide against antibiotics, your baby will be closely monitored for at least 12 hours after birth.

However, if you are delivering via caesarean, you will not need antibiotics.  

Preventing Group B Strep Infection

There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of contracting or passing on bacteria:

  • Keep your vagina clean by washing with water and mild soap. Avoid using douches, perfumed products, or vaginal deodorants as these can actually increase the risk of infection.
  • Wipe from front to back after going to the toilet to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the vagina.
  • Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting clothes as they can trap moisture and provide a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and yoghurt (which contains probiotics that help keep vaginas healthy).
  • Limit sugary and processed foods as they can encourage bacteria to grow
  • Reduce stress as much as possible to keep your immune system strong
  • Stay hydrated – 8-12 cups of water a day is suggested for pregnant women

If you have any concerns about this topic, please don’t hesitate to contact our team at The Surrey Park Clinic. We are always happy to offer advice and support or book you in for Group B Strep testing with our amazing team.

Is It Time To Book An Appointment?

With the possibility of a fatal outcome, we truly believe the benefits of a test during pregnancy should be available to everyone.

It is a safe and simple test that can minimise any risks to the unborn baby.

On average across the UK and Ireland, 66 babies are diagnosed with the infection every month. We would love to cut that down even further and ensure as many mums as possible get the chance for treatment during labour.

At just £99 per test, all you have to do is click here to book in and one of our friendly team will walk you through the whole thing. If you have any questions or concerns before visiting, do not hesitate to contact the clinic.

These choices are yours to make. We just want to offer you the ability to make them.