Group B Strep bacteria (GBS) is more and more of a worry these days, something that every midwife has talked about with their patients and something that every mother is made aware of during one of her many visits to her midwife or doctor. As routine, IV antibiotics are prescribed during labour to GBS positive mothers to prevent them from infecting their newborns during a vaginal birth. Increasingly, newborns with the slightest rise in temperature in the first 24 hours after birth are quickly whisked off to the NICU for monitoring and IV antibiotics ‘just in case’ they have been exposed.
1 in 4 women carry GBS in their vagina with no ill effects. The dangers of GBS is purely with newborns and most newborns exposed to GBS during birth never show any signs of infection or suffer ill effects; but some do (about 1 in every 1,000 babies born in the UK) But according to figures from Public Health England the number of babies being made ill by early onset group B streptococcus has increased by 12 per cent between 2011 and 2015. In America, all mothers are screened for GBS in late pregnancy and it looks like the UK are headed in that direction as well. A clinical trial has recently been undertaken at Northwick Park Hospital in London in which more than 5,000 women were screened, with those testing positive offered antibiotics in labour. Full trial results are expected to be reported in the British Medical Journal but preliminary results given after the first eighteen months showed an 80 per cent reduction in the number of babies infected with the bacteria. (Independent, 5 March, 2017)
Preventing Group B Strep infections in Pregnancy
From reviewing many different online sources specialising in birth and reducing GBS, we’ve gathered that following information that will likely dramatically reduce your chances of contracting GBS during pregnancy. If you do test positive for GBS the links below will assist you in making an informed choice about what treatment options you feel are best for you.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet low in processed sugars to prevent yeast overgrowth and a health vaginal flora
- Take a daily pregnancy multi-vitamin high in vitamin C (some websites recommend megadoses of 2,000mg or higher per day)
- Drink plenty of water daily
- Restrict all and any vaginal examinations to a minimum and only allow if absolutely essential
- Ensure you and your partner wash your hands thoroughly before and after sex
- Take an oral probiotic suited to pregnant women
- Drink a glass of warm water each morning on an empty stomach with 1tsp raw apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’
- Wash your underpants at 90 degrees and tumble dry (for at least 30 min on high heat) or iron after dry to prevent reinfection if you are treating yourself naturally (this is a helpful tip for those pesky yeast infections too)
Treating Group B Strep Infections in Pregnancy
Wellness Mama tested GBS positive in her 35th week of pregnancy, but negative in her 37th week. She explains her natural approach to ridding herself of infection and preventing the use of IV antibiotics during labour.
Midwifery Care also gives a balanced approach to natural treatment methods for GBS positive moms in pregnancy.
California homebirth midwife Ronnie Falcao explains ‘The Garlic Protocol’ here in detail and is also collecting results from participants in the protocol by email.
Evidence Based Birth gives an excellent well rounded review of all the available research on the topic of GBS, the use of antibiotics, the potential effects of antibiotics in labour and long term side effects on the newborns micro biome, which is very recent, since 2014 have scientists only really began to understand the importance of a balanced gut flora in infants. Scroll down to the section ‘How will antibiotics during labor affect a newborn’s micro biome?’ and ‘Garlic‘. While it does explain that there are no published studies confirming the results of using garlic, garlic has been shown to kill the GBS bacteria in the laboratory.
Group B Strep and Placenta Encapsulation
We have no reason to believe mothers who test positive for GBS should avoid consuming their placenta, however we only recommend one method of consumption, steamed, dehydrated capsules. During steamed processing, the placenta will be heated above 70 degrees Celsius to destroy GBS bacteria and any other bacterial or viral contaminants. We do not recommend mothers with a positive GBS infection to consume raw placenta smoothies, simple dehydrated capsules, placenta essence or placenta tincture.
If you are concerned about exposing your newborn to GBS via your placenta capsules or have read about the potential dangers of GBS online, especially the CDC report that claimed a connection between placenta capsules and an infant’s infection, please read IPEN’s public response.