Preventing Group B Strep infection in newborn babies
Responsible department: Department of Health
We, the undersigned, ask the Department of Health to ensure that: every woman is routinely given accurate information about group B Streptococcus (group B Strep or GBS) during antenatal care; every low-risk woman is offered a sensitive test for GBS, ideally at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy; and every higher-risk woman is offered antibiotics in labour.
GBS is the UK’s most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies. Offering antibiotics in labour to Mums whose babies are at raised risk would prevent most of these infections. Babies are at raised risk when their Mums are carrying GBS during the current pregnancy, have previously had a baby with GBS infection, whose labour starts or waters break before 37 weeks of pregnancy, whose waters break more than 18 hours before delivery or who have a fever in labour.
Such prevention strategies massively reduce GBS infection in newborn babies (in the USA by almost 80%) yet the UK incidence is up 16% since 2003.
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