Tag Archives: baby health

Group B Strep: what is it?

July is Group B Strep awareness month.

I asked Oliver Plumb, Partnerships and Campaigns Officer for Group B Strep support, to summarise what women expecting their first child in the UK should know about Group B Strep.

Hi Oliver, can you tell us what Group B Strep is please?

Group B Strep is one of many bacteria which live normally in and on humans without causing any harm or symptoms. About 1 in 4 women will carry group B Strep bacteria.

Why should women who are preparing to give birth for the first time know about it?

Pregnant women should know about group B Strep because, if they are carrying the bacteria around the time they give birth, there’s about a 50% chance their baby will be exposed to it and, if they are, a 1-2% chance their baby falling seriously ill with meningitis, sepsis or pneumonia. If they know they carry group B Strep bacteria, they can have simple and safe antibiotics in labour which reduces the chance of infection by about 80-90%.

How can women know whether they carry the bacteria? Don’t they get tested as part of their routine antenatal care?

There are no symptoms associated with carrying group B Strep, so the only way to find out is to be tested. This isn’t done routinely on the NHS, as the UK National Screening Committee aren’t convinced screening would do more good than harm. We think their view is flawed, and overlooks widespread evidence from other countries that screening is simple, safe, and effective. For example, our rate (how many babies fall sick per 1000 babies born alive) of early-onset group B Strep infection is about 2.5x that of the United States, where they have been routinely screening all pregnant women since the early 2000s.

If a woman wants to get tested to see if she’s carrying group B Strep, she can do so privately for about £35. We have a curated list of reputable providers of the group B Strep test at www.gbss.org.uk/test

Once women get the results, what should they do? And what should happen?

Whether a woman gets a test result that’s positive or negative for group B Strep carriage, she should let her midwife or doctor know. If the result is positive, she’d be offered antibiotics in labour or when her waters break. This is usually Penicillin, so it’s very important for her to let her midwife or doctor know if she’s allergic to Penicillin as alternatives are available.

Thank you for your answers. Where can women find more information?

My pleasure, if anyone reading this wants more information they can have a read through our page on group B Strep and pregnancy at https://gbss.org.uk/what-is-group-b-strep/, email us on info@gbss.org.uk or call our Helpline on 0330 120 0796.

Baby first aid

Becoming a parent also means becoming a nurse and carer. Personally, I found that quite scary and tried to address my anxieties the best I could. I think I have some common sense and I am a caring person but I have no medical training and the advice I might have picked up from my own childhood experiences was likely outdated. So here is what I did.

I attended antenatal classes. The classes were helpful in giving me an insight in baby’s daily needs: feeding, sleeping, crying, changing, bathing, bonding. It helped me get familiar with some of baby’s paraphernalia (and there’s lots of it!).

I bought and read a paediatric first aid manual cover to cover.

This was one of the best ways of updating my knowledge.

Paediatric First Aid Made Easy by First Aid for Life

I asked questions.

I spoke with my elder sister and sister-in-law. Both have slightly older children and so their experiences of parenting were recent. I also spoke to my antenatal group to try and figure out if anything was wrong. There aren’t many people you can talk to about green poo.

I had a competent and helpful Health Visitor.

Violet would do home visits or I would see her at baby clinics. She answered my questions or directed me to my GP when she thought it necessary.

I knew what health services I could use.

When the community midwife made her first visit after birth she told us to go to A&E if we had concerns for our baby. Whether this was because he had just come out of phototherapy or because it is standard advice I don’t know but I took the view that I wouldn’t be bothering doctors if I brought in my newborn because I was concerned. I didn’t intend to lengthen the queues at A&E but I was ready to go. Fortunately, it never came to that.

I knew I could call my GP’s surgery and knew where my nearest walk-in centre was. I also knew I could call 111 although I believe that a sick child needs to be SEEN by a doctor. All the same, 111 can direct you to the nearest out-of-hours GP or A&E.

And if I had concerns over my own health, I had my GP’s and Maternity ward’s numbers on my fridge.

Health app

Now there is a great app designed by the Lullaby Trust called The Baby Check app. It is user-friendly and runs you through a number of questions to test for different symptoms and signs of illness.

For example, it teaches you how best to take your baby’s temperature. It recommends using an electronic thermometer under the armpit for babies’ under 4 weeks old and an ear thermometer after that and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

It was a bit of a shock when we first came home from the hospital and realised we were in sole charge of a tiny baby but I found taking these simple steps before birth reassuring. I hope you will too.