1 July 2023 marks the start of International Group Strep B Awareness month. The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness predominantly amongst healthcare providers, parents and future parents about this infection which has the potential to cause serious harm or death in new-borns.
What is Group B Strep?
Group B Strep is a type of streptococcal bacteria that is very common in both men and women. It is generally present in the rectum or vagina and usually doesn't cause any symptoms or health issues. Therefore, a person can be infected with Group B Strep and not even realise.
In pregnant women however, an infection with Group B Strep can have serious consequences.
Group B Strep in Pregnancy
Group B Strep isn't routinely tested for in pregnant women who are receiving NHS care and nor is it recommended. This is because it is a relatively common infection that rarely causes any problems. An infection with Group B Strep will therefore generally only come to light during routine testing for another reason such as a urine test or vaginal swab.
If Group B Strep is identified during pregnancy, or if a woman who is pregnant has had a baby that has been affected by Group B Step before, there is a small risk that it could spread to the baby in the current pregnancy and make them very ill.
Whilst most babies who are infected with Group B Strep will make a full recovery with appropriate treatment (which usually involves the prescription of antibiotics), some babies will sadly develop serious problems such as sepsis, pneumonia or meningitis as a result.
It is for this reason that if Group Strep B is identified as a risk in pregnancy, the following advice will be provided:-
- To make contact with the hospital as soon as contractions start or the waters break.
- To give birth in hospital.
- To receive antibiotics during labour (to reduce the risk of the infection affecting the baby).
Advice may also be provided to stay in hospital for at least 12 hours after giving birth so that the baby can be monitored for any signs that they are suffering from an active infection.
Group B Strep in Clinical Negligence Cases
Sadly, in some cases, Group B Strep is identified during pregnancy but the above advice is not followed. In some cases, the above advice is followed but the signs that a baby has developed an infection following delivery are missed and they do not receive prompt treatment. Sometimes, the infection is detected and treatment recommended, but then not administered. The consequences of these omissions can be catastrophic as the severe infection that results can lead to neonatal death or the development of serious and permanent disabilities that leave babies requiring lifelong support.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.