Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in pregnancy and new born babies.


What is Group B Streptococcus (GBS)?

Group B Streptococcus is one of the many normal bacteria that live in our bodies which usually cause no harm whatsoever.

It is carried in the vagina and rectum of 20-40% of women in the United Kingdom. Being a carrier of GBS is not harmful to you but can cause a problem to your baby around the time of birth.

How is GBS found?

GBS is only found during pregnancy when you have vaginal, rectal or a urine test.  In the UK, the NHS does NOT routinely offer all pregnant women screening for GBS.

How could GBS affect my baby?

If you carry GBS, there is a small chance that your baby will develop GBS infection and become seriously ill.

The infections that GBS commonly cause in newborns are sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis.

Although GBS infection can result in your baby being very unwell, with quick treatment most babies will recover .

On average in the UK , every month

  • 43 babies develop early-onset GBS infection
  • 38 babies make a full recovery
  • 3 babies survive with long term physical or mental disabilities
  • 2 babies due from their early-onset GBS infection. (Group B Strep Support. December 2017)

What increases the risk of GBS infection?

  • If your baby is born pre-term (before 37 weeks)
  • You previously have been diagnosed with GBS
  • If you have a high temperature during labour
  • You had a positive urine or swab test during your pregnancy
  • If you waters have broken 24 hours before your baby is born.

How can the risk of GBS infection be reduced?

  • If a urine infection in pregnancy is caused by GBS, this should be treated straight away with antibiotics and you should also be offered antibiotics through a drip in labour.
  • If you have had a positive swab test or urine test your should also be offered antibiotics during labour
  • If your waters break after 37 weeks of pregnancy and you are known to carry GBS. Your will be offered INDUCTION OF LABOUR straight away. You should also be offered antibiotics through a drip.
  • If your labour starts before 37 weeks of labour, you will have antibiotics through a drip even if you are not known to carry GBS

Can antibiotics in labour cause any harm?

Some women may suffer from side effects such as nausea or diarrhoea. If you have any allergies to antibiotics, you should let your health care provider know as soon as possible.

What are the signs of GBS infection in babies?

Most babies who develop GBS infection become unwell in the the first week usually withn 12-24 hours of birth.

Signs include:

  • Grunting or noisy breathing
  • Unconsolable crying
  • Changes in skin colour
  • Not feeding very well
  • Unusually floppy
  • Unresponsive
  • Abnormally fast or slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar.

If you notice any of these symptoms it is very important that you contact your healthcare professional as soon as possible .

In Mourne Scan Clinic, we have GBS testing kits available to pick up.  This test is completed at home and cost £35 to send to the laboratory for testing. All instructions are very clearly described within the kit.

It is recommended to aim to test within the last 5 weeks of pregnancy (between 35-37 weeks) of pregnancy.