Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire Talks: Should women be tested for Group B Strep during pregnancy?

This story is over

Over 300 women in Lincolnshire were diagnosed with Group B Strep in the last four years, despite the NHS not having routine checks for the infection.

Group B Strep can cause a number of serious issues for a newborn baby if passed on.

We asked people in Lincolnshire if women should be tested for the infection during pregnancy:

newborn_baby_strep

What is Group B Strep?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS), more commonly known as Group B Strep, is a bacterial infection that is carried by one in four women.

In women, it’s found in the intestine and vagina, and causes no problem in most pregnancies.

However, if it infects the baby, this can lead to serious illness.

For those who are diagnosed with Group B Strep during pregnancy, they are offered antibiotics during labour to reduce the chances of a newborn getting the infection, however, there are no routine tests for this with the NHS.

A Strep B infection during pregnancy can also cause miscarriage or stillbirth, but this is rare.

Symptoms of Group B Strep in newborns, which can usually be found within the first few hours or days after birth, include:

  • Baby being floppy and unresponsive
  • Poor feeding
  • Grunting when breathing
  • Irritability
  • An unusually high or low temperature
  • Unusually fast or slow breathing
  • An unusually fast or slow heart rate

For more information on the infection, visit the NHS website.

Figures

The Lincolnshire Reporter team have looked into data over the last four years of women who have been diagnosed with the infection, that United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (ULHT) know of.

As the infection is not routinely tested, there is not a specific code for Group B Strep and figures for the infection are only added if the woman is also diagnosed with something else or is diagnosed with sepsis due to Group B Strep.

Figures over the last four years:

Figures from ULHT following an FOI request from Lincolnshire Reporter

Figures from ULHT following an FOI request from Lincolnshire Reporter

Last year, a petition was launched for the NHS to provide tests for Group B Strep to prevent any more avoidable deaths of newborn babies.

So far, 248, 421 people have signed the petition and has a target of 300,000 people before it is taken to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

labour_strep_b

First hand experience

Heather Witts, from Grimsby, is currently pregnant with her second child and, despite being diagnosed with Group B Strep for her first child, will have to pay privately for a test, due to the NHS not providing them.

An average test for Group B Step costs around £35.

She told Lincolnshire Reporter: “[The NHS] won’t test me for it even though I have had it before.

“Women should be routinely tested, it can be a life threatening condition for a baby. We had to stay in hospital for five days with my first child while he had antibiotics because I didn’t get the antibiotics in time.

“If something is going to risk your baby’s life, the NHS should be doing anything they can to prevent the loss of a baby. It’s a simple swab that takes two seconds.”

Katie Pepper’s son was born with Group B Strep in 2014, she said: “I didn’t know I had it, and passed it to my son, who dramatically went downhill after being born and was then in neonatal for a week in an incubator and on antibiotics.

“Having your son rushed upstairs after he was just born is not something any mum needs, a simple test can prevent this.”

Sheila Gash, from Lincoln, said: “My daughter lost her first baby through Group B Strep.

“Had she been given a blood test during pregnancy, he would not have died at 11-hours-old.

“That was 17-years-ago, and still they not offering blood tests.”