Women’s knowledge of and attitudes towards group B streptococcus (GBS) testing in pregnancy: a qualitative study

Constantinou, Georgina, Ayers, Susan, Mitchell, Eleanor J, Walker, Kate F, Daniels, Jane, Moore, Sarah, Jones, Anne-Marie and Downe, Soo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2848-2550 (2023) Women’s knowledge of and attitudes towards group B streptococcus (GBS) testing in pregnancy: a qualitative study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 23 (1).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-023-05651-0


Background: 20–25% pregnant women in the UK carry group B streptococcus (GBS) which, if left undetected, is transmitted from pregnant mothers to their babies during birth in 36% of cases. This transmission leads to early onset GBS infection (EOGBS) in 1% of babies which is a significant cause of mortality and morbidity in newborns. The literature available suggests women’s knowledge of GBS is low, with many women unaware of the GBS bacterium. In addition, attitudes towards GBS testing have not been widely examined, with research mostly focusing on attitudes towards potential GBS vaccination. Aim: To examine women’s knowledge of GBS in pregnancy and their attitudes towards GBS testing. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 19 women (5 pregnant and 14 postpartum). Interviews were transcribed and analysed using systematic thematic analysis. Results: Four main theme categories were identified. Participants had varying levels of awareness of GBS, with the information provided by health professionals not being clearly explained or the importance of GBS being downplayed. Participants wanted more information and to feel informed. Overall, the majority had positive attitudes towards being offered and taking up GBS testing, and this study identified some of the key factors influencing their decision. These included: seeing GBS testing as just another routine procedure during pregnancy; that it would lower the risk of their baby becoming unwell; provide reassurance; and allow them to prepare; and provide informed choices. Participants also expressed a few common concerns about GBS testing: questioning the invasiveness of the procedure; risks to themselves and the baby; and the risk of receiving antibiotics. Conclusions: Women need clear, detailed information about GBS and GBS testing, and women’s concerns are important to address if routine GBS testing is implemented. The efficacy of implementing routine universal testing in the UK is currently being investigated in a large multi-centre clinical trial; the GBS3trial, further qualitative research is needed to look at the acceptability of different methods of GBS testing, as well as the acceptability of GBS testing to women in specific groups, such as those planning a home birth or those from different ethnic backgrounds.

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