Published Friday, 21 September 2012
Although it is harmless in most cases, Group B Strep has claimed the lives of newborn babies.
Other countries screen for the infection which can be treated with a simple course of antibiotics.
The consultation period is due to finish in a few weeks' time, but campaigners say action needs to be taken now to prevent further deaths.
Sarah Cowan's first baby Harry lived for only 13 hours after contracting Group B Strep during labour, at the end of what had been a healthy pregnancy.
"We had our wee nursery done up and I had the pram and everything," recalled the Co Down woman.
"My labour was straight forward. Basically, everything went wrong when he was born."
Harry had to be resuscitated and was immediately taken to the neo-natal unit, but hours later he passed away.
"I was in such shock," she explained. "I expected my baby to be ok. Coming home from the hospital with no baby, it was just horrendous."
Sarah said when she and her husband received the autopsy results a few weeks later, Harry had died due to pneumonia and sepsis caused by Group B Strep.
The infection is very common - one in four women carry the bacteria - and Sarah believes her baby could be alive today had she been tested and given antibiotics.
"It was the best day because I got to meet him, but it was the worst day of my life because we were burying our baby instead of bringing him home from the hospital," explained Sarah.
The Royal College of Midwives estimates that of the 26,000 births in Northern Ireland each year, 13 will contract Group B Strep and two or three will die from the infection.
A test carried out at 35 to 37 weeks can determine if expectant mothers have Group B Strep, but it is not available on the NHS.
"The difficulty with GBS is you could be screened today and be negative and be screened tomorrow and be positive," explained Breedagh Hughes from the Royal College of Midwives.
"It's a very imprecise way of dealing with the problem.
"I think the Americans are probably a lot further ahead than us on this one and they recognise the difficulties of both universal screening and treating every women with antibiotics and they're now researching actively a way of find a vaccine that will treat this problem for all women."
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