Gynaecologist’s call for more antibiotics in labour

Posted on: September 26th, 2017

New guidelines have been published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) about the treatment of pregnant women with Group B Strep (GBS) to protect newborn infants from suffering a serious and life-threatening infection.

GBS is a bacteria present in the bowel flora or vagina and it is estimated that 20-40% of adults are carriers. Most people will not realise that they are carriers and it is generally harmless however there is a known risk that pregnant women can pass it on to the baby during childbirth. This can then cause life-threatening complications resulting in death of the baby or serious disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, and severe learning difficulties. It is therefore essential that GBS infections are diagnosed and treated promptly to prevent such serious and long lasting damage. The RCOG’s newly published guidance for healthcare professionals aims at preventing early-onset GBS infection, in other words those GBS infections that occur within the first seven days of life.

The guidelines recommend that all pregnant women are provided with an appropriate information leaflet in an attempt to raise awareness. It is also recommended that all pregnant women who go into labour before 37 weeks are offered antibiotics as a precaution. The new guidelines also supersede the previous guidelines for those women who were carriers of GBS in their previous pregnancy and their baby did not develop GBS infection. It now recommends that the option of prophylactic antibiotics is discussed or GBS testing is offered late in the pregnancy with the offer antibiotics if tested positive at that stage. However, the striking issue that remains is that routine GBS testing of all pregnant women is still not recommended in the updated guidelines despite the serious complications that can arise from the newborn baby suffering the infection.

At Coffin Mew we are specialists, pursuing clinical negligence claims resulting from serious and catastrophic injuries, and especially those suffered during child birth. We have experience of investigating claims arising from the failure to provide antibiotics in child birth. In many cases, symptoms prior to delivery suggested a mother carried infection. Failure to provide antibiotics caused risk to the newborn giving rise to infection, meningitis, and brain damage.

We know that the provision of antibiotics could have prevented these infections and the significant disabilities that followed. The new guideline providing for antibiotics is welcomed, as this will reduce the risk of these disabilities being suffered. Those who may have suffered in the past and question whether antibiotics should have been given either prior to, or immediately following delivery should seek legal advice as to whether there was negligence. The damages that can be recovered from such investigations can be used to assist those with life long disability.

Tan Jaff is a Solicitor in the Medical Negligence team based in Portsmouth, she can be contacted on 023 9236 4074.