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Natural Treatment For Group B Strep In Pregnancy

in Pregnancy

Group B strep (GBS) colonization increases many risks during pregnancy, so moms want to know how to decrease their chances of carrying GBS. This article outlines Dr. Green Mom’s GBS prevention and treatment protocols based on integrative medicine and natural medicine principles. The strategies covered include probiotics, herbs, zinc supplementation, and lifestyle considerations. 

Note: Scroll down to the box near the bottom of the article to see the protocols.

What Is Group B Strep (GBS)?

Group B strep is the common name for Streptococcus agalactiae, a type of bacteria commonly found in healthy people’s urinary tract, digestive tract, and genitals. It’s so common that about one in five pregnant women will test positive for GBS at the 36/37 week GBS screening test. 

Testing positive for GBS at the end of pregnancy does not mean that you are sick or that anything bad will happen to your baby. It is not cause for alarm. However, the presence of GBS increases some risks during pregnancy, so doing all that you can to prevent GBS is a wise course of action.

Why Prevent Group B Strep (GBS)? 

The most concerning effect of GBS colonization is the possibility of passing it to your infant at birth. In most cases, if GBS is passed to the infant at birth, there are no symptoms and it becomes part of their healthy microbiome. However, in rare cases, GBS can cause a serious infection in infants called Group B Strep disease. In the United States, it is recommended that women who test positive for GBS are offered IV antibiotics during labor to reduce the chances of their infant developing Group B Strep disease. 

GBS colonization during pregnancy is associated with increased rates of:

  • Cesarean section
  • Preterm labor/birth
  • Chorioamnionitis (infection of placenta and amniotic fluid)
  • Endometritis (postpartum infection of the womb)
  • Heavy bleeding after birth

Read More: Does Screening For GBS In Pregnancy Cause More Harm Than Good? – Dr. Green Mom

Probiotics For GBS Prevention

Probiotics are safe to use in pregnancy and are my favorite natural remedy for GBS prevention. 

Probiotics can be used in three ways. For the most thorough approach, I usually recommend that women take advantage of all three of the following probiotic options during their second and third trimesters: Probiotics can be 1) taken orally daily, 2) inserted into the vagina via a probiotic suppository, and/or 3) consumed as they naturally occur in fermented foods.

Oral Probiotic Supplementation For GBS Prevention And Treatment

Several different strains of probiotics have been studied for GBS prevention and treatment (see below for research). While almost all probiotics will offer some benefit, probiotics with the strains listed below will likely be the most effective at preventing GBS.

An important note: using probiotics to prevent and treat GBS colonization seems to be more effective when the probiotics are used daily. Stopping the probiotics or taking them irregularly may allow GBS to come back. 

Click the links below to see some of the research on various strains of probiotics and their ability to decrease Group B strep during pregnancy:

Dr. green Mom® Women's Health Probiotic

Dr. Green Mom’s Women’s Health Probiotic was formulated with the needs of pregnant and lactating women in mind (though it is good for all stages of adolescence and adulthood). It contains therapeutic doses of many of the above GBS fighting strains of bacteria. 

Vaginal Probiotic Suppositories

Using vaginal probiotic suppositories has the advantage of delivering probiotics directly to the area where they are needed. Probiotic suppositories are less well researched for GBS prevention, but they have a long history of use by many mothers and midwives. 

You can purchase pre-made suppositories or make your own. 

DIY Probiotic Suppositories 

Melt 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa butter with 1.5 tablespoons of coconut oil. Stir in the contents of 1 capsule of Women’s Health Probiotic, then pour into suppository molds and refrigerate. Suppository molds are easy to find online. 

In my practice, I have most women insert one probiotic suppository vaginally before bed once per week during their third trimester. If they are dealing with a vaginal infection (yeast or bacteria), or recurrent urinary tract infections, I may have them use suppositories more frequently. Be sure to wear a pantyliner when using a vaginal suppository before bed because some of the product may leak and could stain bedding. 

Eating Fermented Foods

Consuming fermented foods increases microbiome diversity, reduces inflammation, and improves the overall immune response. Fermented foods boost overall health, while a well-formulated probiotic supplement provides a more targeted approach. Probiotic-rich foods to enjoy while pregnant include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, kvass, kefir, miso, and more.

Herbal Suppositories For GBS Prevention 

Herbal suppositories are another time-tested way to improve vaginal health during pregnancy.

Many midwives recommend placing a whole garlic clove into the vagina as an overnight suppository. I know many women and doctors who swear by this strategy, and garlic does kill GBS, but using raw garlic as a suppository makes me uncomfortable because of the risk of garlic burns. Suppositories containing garlic extract may be a safer way to take advantage of the antimicrobial benefits of garlic without the risk of burns.

Copaiba is another herb that may be helpful. Speak with an experienced practitioner before using herbal vaginal suppositories during pregnancy. 

Zinc For GBS Prevention & Treatment

Zinc may help kill group B strep. Pregnant women can safely take up to 40mg of zinc per day. If a patient tests positive for GBS, I often have her increase her zinc intake through food or supplementation.

Herbs For GBS Prevention & Treatment

As mentioned above, research shows that garlic can kill GBS. A vital molecule, allicin, is only present in raw garlic. Allicin rapidly breaks down when cooked or exposed to air. When taking garlic medicinally, be sure to use a garlic extract that contains allicin or consume raw garlic.

Echinacea is another common treatment for group B strep. This immune-boosting herb is safe during pregnancy and may help the body to clear GBS. In my practice, I use Immune Support Max, which contains echinacea & ginger.

Lifestyle Changes For A Healthy Vaginal Microbiome

Lifestyle plays an important role in microbiome health. Lifestyle changes that can improve the health of your vaginal microbiome include:

Dr. Green Mom GBS Protocol

What To Do If You Test Positive For GBS At 36 Weeks?

Though this article focuses on how to prevent and treat GBS during pregnancy to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, I do believe that antibiotics are sometimes a wise idea prophylactically. This choice depends on your risk factors and is a conversation to have with your doctor or midwife.

Suppose you need to use antibiotics during or after labor and delivery. In that case, I generally recommend that my patients use a high-dose probiotic for 2-4 weeks after antibiotic use followed by a maintenance probiotic for at least 4-6 months, plus a gut healing protocol if needed. Infants should be breastfed if possible and given a probiotic that contains a mix of infant-specific lactobacillus and bifidus species. 

Read more: How To Avoid Side Effects of Antibiotics Using Natural Medicine – Dr. Green Mom

Dr. Green Mom’s GBS Prevention Protocol

Women’s Health Probiotic – 1 daily with food. Start when you find out that you’re pregnant.

Prenatal & Postnatal Daily Nutrients Multivitamin – 3 per day with food. Start when you find out that you’re pregnant.

Prenatal & Postnatal Omega-3  – 3 per day with food

Probiotic Suppository – 1 per week before bed. Start in the third trimester. (See article for more info.)

Reduce intake of refined sugar and processed foods

Dr. Green Mom’s GBS Treatment Protocol

Continue Omega and Prenatal Vitamins.

Increase Women’s Health Probiotic – 2 daily with food. Start if you get a positive GBS test or if you have symptoms of vaginal dysbiosis like bacterial vaginitis or yeast infections.

Probiotic Suppository – 1 every night before bed. (See article for more info.)

Immune Support Max – 1 serving per day.

Zinc Gummies – 2 per day with food.

Avoid all intake of refined sugar and processed foods

Dr. Green Mom’s Antibiotic Recovery Protocol

Antibiotic Support Probiotic – 1 twice daily with food during antibiotic treatment and for 2-4 weeks after treatment ends.

Women’s Health Probiotic – 1-2 daily with food for a minimum of 4-6 months.

Mother’s Immunity Support capsules or glycerite – 1 serving per day

Infant & Kids Probiotic – up to ½ scoop per day

Anti-inflammatory diet

*These are the protocols that I use in my office for most but not all of my patients. It may not be appropriate for you, so speak with your doctor or midwife.  

Summary

Group B Strep (GBS) is a normal part of many healthy women’s vaginal microbiomes, but it can cause complications during labor and delivery and increases the risk of group B strep disease in infants. Preventing and treating group B strep colonization may lead to better pregnancy outcomes. There are many natural options for reducing GBS including herbs, probiotics, nutrients, and lifestyle changes.

References:

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