Posted by Kerstin Scheel, Partner
Group B Strep: New information leaflet now to be given to all expectant mothers
Leading charity, Group B Strep Support, has joined forces with the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) in order to produce an informative patient leaflet about group B Strep. This leaflet, the first of its kind, will be given to all pregnant women as part of routine antenatal care in England and Wales and represents a huge step forwards in giving expectant mothers the opportunity to make informed choices about GBS.
Group B Strep, known as GBS, refers to bacteria which is carried commonly. In adults it usually has no adverse effects. However, if GBS is passed from a mother to her baby around the time of delivery then there is a risk that the baby will develop an infection, which in turn can potentially cause catastrophic injury or even death.
The good news is that there are very high success rates for treatment providing that antibiotics are given during labour or to the newborn baby. This means that it is very important to know whether or not a woman is carrying group B Strep towards the end of her pregnancy.
Detecting Group B Strep
Unfortunately, there is currently no universal antenatal screening programme in place in the UK, unlike many other developed countries. Instead, the RCOG currently provides for a ‘risk based’ approach, with GBS testing and/or antibiotics only being offered to those who meet certain criteria.
Leading GBS charity, Group B Strep Support, have been campaigning for a universal screening programme to ensure that testing is offered to all pregnant women as they reach the later stage of pregnancy. While the UK National Screening Committee has not yet adopted this recommendation, the partnership between the RCOG and the charity in producing a patient information leaflet has to be seen as a great step forward.
Patient information leaflet
The patient leaflet is due to be provided to all pregnant women as part of their routine antenatal management, as recommended in the related RCOG ‘Green-top Guideline’ document which has been published today. These guidelines set out specific practice recommendations for clinicians to follow and, whilst they are not always absolutely prescriptive, they are widely accepted as being the benchmark of acceptable practice in the UK.
The leaflet itself, explains the nature of group B Strep and its potential implications for pregnant women and their babies. This is the first time that the RCOG has recommended that pregnant women be given information about group B Strep routinely, meaning that more women will be in a position to make an informed choice and can opt for private testing if they wish to do so. Home testing is quick and easy and costs under £40.00. Finding out that you are carrying group B Strep in the late stages of pregnancy can enable the treating clinicians to alter management so as to reduce the risks of a baby acquiring a GBS infection.
A step forward
The draft patient information leaflet was circulated for peer review, with comments being welcomed on the leaflet’s content. The deadline for comments has recently expired and so it is hoped that the finalised version of the leaflet will be published in the coming months.
The collaborative patient information leaflet demonstrates a very real advancement in terms of informing expectant mothers about the potential risks of group B Strep.
I am really pleased to see that this information will be provided to pregnant women routinely, allowing them to make informed choices about testing for GBS. Whilst I consider that universal screening would still be the ideal practice, the patient information leaflet represents significant progress in the meantime and could well help to prevent many babies from suffering serious injury or death, which can otherwise be avoided.
For more information please visit our Group B Strep claims page, or contact us free of charge via the details below.
Kerstin is an expert in cases involving Group B Strep and is available to answer any questions. Contact her today for free on:
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