Group B Step Awareness Month – Why do we need to know about this?

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4 minute read

During July, key patient safety and health campaigning charities join forces to raise awareness about Group B Strep, a bacterial infection very common in both women and men that is normally harmless but can significantly impact fetuses and newborn babies.


What do I need to know about Group B Strep?

Adults and older children

Group B Streptococcus (Group B Step) is a common type of bacteria that usually lives in the bottom or vagina and can cause infection. In most cases, Group B Strep does not cause any symptoms for adults so many people carry the bacteria without knowing. When adults get sick, the infection is most commonly treated with antibiotics and most patients make an easy recovery.

Newborns and young children

Unfortunately, this is not always the case with newborns. The bacteria can target vulnerable organs and can cause life threatening infections like sepsis (infection of the blood), meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining of the brain) or even pneumonia (infection of the lungs). Most Group B Strep infections take place within the first week of life (called early onset infection) but babies can still develop an infection anytime within their first three months or, in some rare cases, later in life (called late-onset infection).

Group B Streptococcus Support (GBSS), a campaigning charity raising awareness about the condition within both clinical settings but also in the general population, has published some important stats about the impact of Group B Strep on babies:

On average, in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, every month:

  • Around 70,000 live babies are born
  • 66 babies are diagnosed with a group B Strep infection, of these:
  • 56 babies make a full recovery
  • 4 babies die from the group B Strep infection
  • 6 babies survive with long-term physical or mental disabilities

Most babies that come into contact with Group B step during labour or around birth do not become ill.


According to the charity GBSS, there is evidence that Group B Strep can cause late miscarriage or stillbirth, even though this is very rare. For this reason, it is important to test pregnant women and if they are found to carry the bacteria to carefully monitor their pregnancy thereafter. Testing for Group B Strep is not standard practice in the UK but can be done privately at a relatively low cost.


If you have been identified as being higher risk for your baby to develop a Group B strep related infection, you may get offered intravenous antibiotics during labour to prevent this. There are no known preventative measures for late-onset infections.

As discussed, testing for Group B Strep is not routinely offered to pregnant women in the UK.  You are more likely to be at risk if:

  • Your baby is born premature
  • You have previously had a baby with a Group B Strep infection
  • You have tested positive for Group B Strep during your pregnancy
  • You haven’t gone into labour within 24 hours after your waters have broken
  • You have symptoms of an infection during pregnancy (such as a high temperature)

Most Group B Strep infections are unavoidable but the risk to your baby can be managed by being properly monitored during the pregnancy and receiving the right care both during your pregnancy and during labour. If the correct procedures were not followed, the symptoms of infection were not correctly interpreted or the care you and/or your baby received are substandard you may be able to bring a medical negligence claim.

The purpose of making a claim is to secure financial compensation to help you and your family.  There may be additional care and therapies needed to overcome the consequences and potential lifelong symptoms your baby may face as a result of the infection.  Compensation can help with these additional costs.

In the tragic cases where a baby dies because of the infection, making a claim can help you get answers about what happened and why and to fund support for you to help you with your loss.  We are acutely aware, however, that no amount of money is every going to turn back time and put wrongs right.  Having an acknowledgement of what has happened to you and obtaining answers along with some financial compensation can help alleviate the stress of worrying about money during what will be a  very stressful, emotional and difficult time.

At Enable Law we have a specialist team of medical negligence experts supporting families whose lives have been affected by Group B Strep. We have learnt over the years what our clients are going through and have a robust network of professionals and charities that we can turn to when needed to support you, so even if you do not have a claim there may be other ways we can help you.

To have a free, no obligation, confidential chat with a member of the team call us on 0800 044 8488. Alternatively, fill in our contact form Contact Us – Enable Law so we can ring you at a time that works best for you.

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