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Hospital pharmacists should be prepared to prescribe antibiotics to all pregnant women who go into labour too early, according to a campaign group.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has published new guidelines that state more women should be prescribed medication to stop their unborn baby from developing the potentially life-threatening infection Group B Strep (GBS).
GBS affects hundreds of newborns across the UK each year, with two in every 20 infected infants developing a disability and one in 20 sadly passing away.
However, the RCOG believes that these figures could be reduced even further if all women who go into labour before 37 weeks' gestation are offered antibiotics as a precautionary measure.
Doctors believe that even if a woman's waters have not broken, meaning the baby is not necessarily at quite as high risk of developing GBS, prescribing antibiotics could still help to safeguard her unborn baby's health.
GBS bacteria can live in a woman's lower vaginal tract undetected, so the majority are not aware they are a carrier of the infection. In total, around one in four women have this bacteria, which is usually harmless, but can affect prematurely-born babies.
The RCOG is now also recommending that mothers who have tested positive for GBS in the past are screened for the infection when they are between 35 and 37 weeks pregnant so that healthcare professionals can assess whether they will need to be prescribed antibiotics during their next labour.
Yet some campaigners wish that the college had gone one step further and recommended routine screening for all expectant mothers.
Jane Plumb, chief executive of Group B Strep Support, commented: "The RCOG guideline is a significant improvement on previous editions. However, the UK National Screening Committee still recommends against offering GBS screening to all pregnant women, ignoring international evidence that shows such screening reduces GBS infection, disability and death in newborn babies."
Written by James Puckle
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