This petition was submitted during the 2010–2015 Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government

Petition Routinely Test For Strep B in pregnancy

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Every year, thousands of babies die because it is not routinely tested for. I, and many other feel that this should be tested for with every pregnancy.

This petition is closed This petition ran for 6 months

11,785 signatures


Government responded

This response was given on 4 July 2013

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is one of many bacteria that can be present in the human body. It is estimated that about one in five pregnant women in the UK carries GBS. Around the time of labour and birth, many babies come into contact with GBS – most are unaffected but a small number can become infected. It is estimated that about one in 2,000 babies born in the UK develops early-onset GBS infection. This is around 400 babies a year, most of whom will make a full recovery.

The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) advises ministers and the NHS in all four countries about all aspects of screening policy and supports its implementation. At its meeting on 13 November 2012, the UK National Screening Committee recommended that antenatal screening for GBS carriage at 35-37 weeks should not be offered. This is because:

· the screening tests currently available cannot distinguish between women whose babies would be affected and those which would not. As a result, about 140,000 low-risk pregnant women would be offered antibiotics in labour following a positive screening test result. The overwhelming majority of these women would have a healthy baby without screening and treatment;

· there are concerns about resistance to some antibiotics used to prevent early onset GBS, the long term effects on the baby and the potential for anaphylactic reactions in labour. The Chief Medical Officer for England is particularly concerned about the risks posed by antibiotic resistance due to over-use;

· the majority of babies who die from early-onset GBS are premature and sadly are born too early to be helped by screening;

· it has been estimated that up to 49,000 women carrying GBS at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy may no longer be GBS carriers during labour. Studies of the test suggest that between 13 per cent and 40 per cent of women who are screened as positive will no longer be carriers when they deliver the baby; and

· increasing the medical aspects of labour would lead to an increase in hospital births and a decrease in home births and births in midwife-led units, with a resulting impact on the provision of maternity services.

The advice from the UK NSC is consistent with that of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme is currently seeking to commission a study to provide evidence on whether testing high risk women for GBS colonisation during childbirth enables more timely identification of women with GBS carriage and potentially better targeted antibiotic use.

This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold.