Group Beta Strep (GBS) is a type of normal bacteria that is commonly found in the human body. 10-35% of all healthy adult women have GBS in the lower intestine and/or vagina. Ordinarily, this doesn't cause a problem, however, in certain circumstances, GBS bacteria can invade the body and cause serious infection; this is referred to as Group B disease. The typical treatment for is antibiotics, but effective, alternative treatment for GBS may be a better option for you and your baby.
During pregnancy, women are typically tested for GBS during 35th to 37th week of pregnancy because if a mother is colonized, there is a chance that her baby may develop Group B disease.
A positive culture means that a woman is colonized with GBS. It does not mean that she has GBS disease or that her baby will become ill. Rather, it means that the care provider must plan labor and delivery and newborn care with this in mind.
If you test positive, you can opt for antibiotics when you are in active labor and/or choose to try alternative therapies in the weeks leading up to labor. If you are working with a traditional OBGYN, you may not be given the option to try alternative therapies, but these options do exist.
Which women are more likely to develop GBS disease?
- Positive for GBS colonization at 35-37 weeks
- Previously given birth to a baby who had GBS infection
- GBS bacteria in the urine (either with or without symptoms)
- The water bag has broken for more than 18 hours prior to delivery
- Onset of labor or water bag breaking before 37 weeks
- Developing a fever higher than 100.4 F
GBS and risk to your baby
According to the CDC, if you have tested positive and are not in the high risk category, then your chances of delivering a baby with GBS are 1 in 200 without antibiotics and 1 in 4000 with antibiotics. Premature babies, with their less mature immune systems are more vulnerable than babies born full term. However, since most babies are born at term, 70% of babies who develop the disease are term.
GBS disease can occur in infants one week to several months after birth. A baby that develops late onset may exhibit the following signs: stiffness, limpness, inconsolable screaming, fever, or refusal to feed.
In newborns, GBS is the most common cause of sepsis (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining surrounding the brain) and is a frequent cause of newborn pneumonia. GBS infection can be fatal for newborns, and up to 20% of babies who survive GBS-related meningitis are permanently handicapped, including hearing or vision loss, varying degrees of physical and learning disabilities and cerebral palsy.
Why consider alternative treatment for GBS?
Conventional treatment to prevent GBS transmission at birth is intravenous antibiotics, 4 to 6 hours prior to delivery for women who have tested positive for GBS.
While no mother wants to pass potentially harmful bacteria to her baby through the birth canal, it is important to note that a baby also receives essential healthy bacteria and other micro-flora when passing through the birth canal. The exchange of micro-flora during a vaginal birth marks the very beginnings of your baby forming his/her immune system.
Antibiotic use during pregnancy and birth puts this natural, healthy exchange of micro-flora at risk. And therefore, antibiotics should only be used if all other methods of correcting bacterial imbalance have been exhausted.
While antibiotics are the research-documented way to prevent GBS infection, midwives use natural protocols with great success.
Alternative treatment for GBS colonization during pregnancy
Ideally, an expectant mother will begin treatment at about 32 weeks, after confirmation of the presence of GBS.
The treatment will strengthen the immune system and help to restore healthy vaginal flora, enabling the body to correct bacterial overgrowth. Here are some remedies that may help:
- High potency probiotic supplement – at least 4 billion cells per dose – (and probiotic foods) to encourage healthy flora (should be taken throughout pregnancy, but especially in the case of GBS+ test).
- Vitamin C – 1000mg per day with bioflavinoids – to support the immune system and strengthen the amniotic sac to prevent early rupture which can increase the likelihood of GBS infection.
- Burdock root and echinacea root infusion – drink 1 cup per day. To prepare the infusion, steep 1/2 ounce of each of these herbs in 4 cups of boiling water for 2 hours. Strain and take the above dose, storing the rest in the refrigerator for the next day.
- Echinacea and astragalus tinctures twice daily, 1/2 tsp each.
- Grapefruit seed extract – 15 drops daily.
- Plenty of fresh garlic every day. This could include:
- Garlic tea – Chop a clove of fresh garlic and mix with a teaspoon of honey. Swallow this without chewing it. This can be done several times a day, preferably with a meal.
- Garlic elixir – Blend 1/2 cup of honey, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and half a bulb of fresh garlic in your blender until liquidy. Take 1/2 teaspoon up to twice a day. Adjust the taste as necessary with more or less of the honey or vinegar.
- Chop fresh garlic onto a salad, or mix with olive oil to use as a dressing or dip French bread into this as a condiment.
- Take garlic pearls according to the dosage on the brand you purchase.
Vaginal garlic protocol for GBS prevention
Garlic is a natural antibiotic and has been shown in vitro (in laboratory petri dishes) to kill bacteria and also yeast. In some important research done in China (1), garlic was shown to inhibit the growth of all of the following microorganisms: Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris, Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium phlei, Streptococcus faecalis, Bacillus cereus and Micrococcus luteus.
Here are the easy steps to use vaginal garlic to treat GBS
- Break a fresh, dry, hard clove from a bulb of garlic and peel off the paper-like cover.
- Cut clove in half. A whole clove will NOT work.
- Sew a string through the middle of the clove or tie a piece of white thread very tightly (so it cuts a bit into the garlic) and leave the thread hanging out, as if it was a tampon thread. That way it can easily be removed with very little effort. Putting the clove in gauze will prevent direct contact and decrease effectiveness.
———- OR —————
Crush the garlic clove and insert the mush on the end of a tampon (then removed) or your finger. A crushed clove will be more effective because there is more surface area of the garlic is exposed, but is more challenging to insert.
- Insert garlic at night before bed. Many women taste garlic in their mouths as soon as it is in their vagina- so it is less pleasant to treat while awake.
- In the morning, the garlic may fall out when you use the bathroom. If not, use the string to remove the garlic like you would a tampon. If you cannot find it, do worry! The clove cannot enter the uterus through the cervix. It cannot get lost – but it can get pushed into the pocket between the cervix and the vaginal wall. Most people will taste the garlic as long as it is in there. So if you still taste it, it is probably still in there. Most women have trouble getting it out the first time, so be patient and gentle!
- Repeat this for 8 nights (around week 36). Or for 2 nights on, 1 night off, for 5 times (8 nights in 15 days)
- After the eight night of treatment, have your OBGYN or midwife repeat the culture. Before you go to get the culture, wash perineum and rectal area with soap and put on clean cotton underwear. GBS usually lives in your large intestine, and from there contaminates the vagina.
Not usually but women say they can taste it while they have it in the vagina. They can also try some oral garlic or other ways to boost immune system. I have all my moms take probiotics to keep healthy flora first off.
Natural Alternatives to vaginal garlic include:
- Tea tree oil 2% oil to 98% olive oil soaked tampon. Place tampon in vagina for 4 hours daily times 1 week, then retest for GBS.
- Douche with wheatgrass 2x per week alternating with vaginally inserted plain yogurt 2x week.
- Colloidal Silver, 1 dropper a day vaginally, low dose.
If you are successful at eliminating the Group Beta Strep, it's a good idea to continue the treatment until your baby is born to give yourself the best possible chance that the bacteria will not be present at the time of birth.
Speak to your alternative health practitioner to design a protocol to treat GBS naturally that's right for you.
Have you used alternative treatments for GBS? Please share your experience in the comments below!
This post was fact-checked and co-written by Amy Tinney – licensed midwife, registered nurse, and supermom. Amy has worked with pregnant women for over 22 years, and currently offers support to families to have the birth they want, whether in hospital, home, or (soon-to-be) birth center in Los Angeles, CA. Learn more about Amy and her services at Artofnursing.net.
- Chen, H.C., Chang, M.D., Chang, T.J. (1985) Antibacterial Properties of Some Spice Plants Before and After Heat Treatment. [English translation of Chinese article]. Zhonghua Min Guo Wei Sheng Wu Ji Mian Yi Xue Za Zhi 18: 190-5.
- Klein, J.O. (1999) Management of Acute Otitis Media in an Era of Increasing Antibiotic Resistance. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 49: S15-17.
- Honig, E., Mouton J.W., van der Meijden, W.I. (1999) Can Group B Streptococci Cause Symptomatic Vaginitis? Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol 7: 206-09.
- Christensen, K.K, Dykes, A.K., Christensen, P. (1985) Reduced Colonization of Newborns with Group B Streptococci Following Washing of the Birth Canal with Chlorhexidine. J Perinat Med 13: 239-43.
- Irving, W.L. Best Practice in Labour Ward Management. Edited by L.H. Kean, P.N. Baker and D. Edelstone. London: WB Saunders, 2000.
- Albandar, J.M., Gjermo, P., Preus, H.R. (1994) Chlorhexidine Use after Two Decades of Over-the-counter Availability. J Periodontol 65: 109-12.
This post can be seen at the following blog carnivals: Healthy 2Day Wednesdays. Hop on over to check out some other posts you may enjoy!