The UK NSC recommendation on Group B Streptococcus screening in pregnancy
Find general information about population health screening.
More about Group B Streptococcus
GBS is one of many bacteria that can be present in our bodies. It usually causes no harm. This situation is called carrying GBS or being colonised with GBS. GBS is commonly found in the digestive system and the female reproductive system. It's estimated that about one in four pregnant women in the UK carry GBS.
Around the time of labour and birth, many babies come into contact with GBS and are colonised by the bacteria. Most pregnant women who carry GBS bacteria have healthy babies. However, there's a small risk that GBS can pass to the baby during childbirth. Rarely, GBS infection in newborn babies can cause serious complications that can be life-threatening.
Extremely rarely, GBS infection during pregnancy can also cause miscarriage, early (premature) labour or stillbirth. If a baby develops GBS infection less than seven days after birth, it's known as early-onset GBS infection. Most babies who become infected develop symptoms within 12 hours of birth.
It's estimated that about one in 2,000 babies born in the UK and Ireland develops early-onset GBS infection. This means that every year in the UK (with 680,000 births a year) around 340 babies will develop early-onset GBS infection.
There are a number of clinical risk factors which increase the risk of EOGBS sepsis. These include preterm birth (less than 37 weeks gestation), prolonged rupture of the membranes and maternal fever in labour. In the UK healthcare professionals are encouraged to identify and manage high risk pregnancies on the basis of an assessment of these risk factors.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have published a guideline for professionals and information for the public.
The stakeholder groups will be involved when the recommendation is next reviewed. If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us. More information for stakeholders can be found in appendix C of the UK NSC evidence review process.
Related documentsGBS FAQs May 2015 (PDF document, 71KB, 26/05/15)
GBS Policy Statement (November 2012) (PDF document, 2.08MB, 11/12/12)
Review of Group B Streptococcus against UK NSC criteria July 2012 (PDF document, 676KB, 16/07/12)
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