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The acceptability of group B streptococcal bacteria (GBS) testing to women, including self-swabbing procedures: A qualitative study

Constantinou, G. ORCID: 0000-0002-2389-7901, Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460, Mitchell, E. J. , Moore, S., Jones, A-M., Downe, S., Walker, K. F. & Daniels, J. (2024). The acceptability of group B streptococcal bacteria (GBS) testing to women, including self-swabbing procedures: A qualitative study. Midwifery, 135, article number 104063. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2024.104063


Background: Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterium carried by 20–25 % of pregnant women in the UK, which can be transmitted from pregnant women to their babies at the time of birth. Women can be tested for GBS in pregnancy using a vaginal-rectal swab, however, this testing is currently not routinely offered in the UK. A large clinical trial is underway to determine the clinical and cost-effectiveness of routine testing (ISRCTN reference number ISRCTN49639731). A crucial part of understanding whether this type of test should be implemented is women's views on the acceptability of being offered GBS tests, their preferences towards testing procedures and their willingness to receive these tests.

Aim: To explore women's views on the acceptability of different methods of Group B streptococcal bacteria (GBS) testing in pregnancy, including self-swabbing procedures.

Methods: A convenience sample of 19 women (5 pregnant and 14 postpartum) were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using systematic thematic analysis.

Results: Findings show that many of the women interviewed were not concerned about being offered a GBS test, were willing to provide a sample and felt positive towards samples being taken to detect GBS. Women varied in their preferences on the best time for sampling. Some thought being approached during pregnancy gave them time to understand the purpose of testing, prepare for what may happen next and ask questions about potential treatment if needed. Others thought labour was a good time to provide accurate results on GBS carriage at birth and reduce unnecessary worry during pregnancy. However, women were concerned that they may be unable to make an informed decision in labour due to time, pain and the prospect of birthing quickly. Women perceived clinician swabbing as more accurate than self-sampling; however, many thought clinician swabbing might be embarrassing so self-swabs should be available to increase uptake for some women.

Conclusions: Overall, women thought both pregnancy and labour were acceptable times to test for GBS. The majority found both clinician and self-swabbing procedures acceptable; however, many had a preferred swabbing option and thought women should be given the choice of the swabbing procedure most acceptable to them. It is important that women are given information about GBS testing and its procedures in pregnancy regardless of when the GBS swabbing is performed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2024. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Publisher Keywords: Group B streptococcus, GBS, screening, testing, maternal colonisation
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Accepted GBS3 Manuscript 2_V0.5 12.02.2024.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 12 June 2025 due to copyright restrictions.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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