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GBS During Pregnancy + Natural Alternatives

I get a lot of questions about GBS during pregnancy. As with any other topic in relation to health choices, there ARE choices!

I love this info from Nourishing Joy:

GBS is a normal colonization of streptococcus bacteria in the reproductive and digestive tracts. Many women who have it don't even know it.

Since the consequences can be severe, (if infant comes into contact with the bacteria during birth) even fatal, and can happen within hours of delivery, it's common practice for midwives and doctors to routinely check for the bacterial colonization during pregnancy, but it should be noted that it is very rare for a baby – even when exposed to the bacteria – to become sick (less than 1%). It's one of those things that falls in the “likely won't have to deal with but this is serious business and we want to be prepared, just in case” category.

The conventional way to treat GBS+ mothers is to put them on IV antibiotics during delivery, administered every four hours. Penicillin, amoxycillin, or ampicillin are the usual suspects, so alternative methods may be especially helpful if you have allergies to any of those.

While antibiotics may be absolutely necessary in some situations, they also may not be necessary in other situations.

Expanding the use of antibiotics, especially during pregnancy, is dangerous IMO. So why not explore proactive, natural treatment methods, too?

Natural Methods to Treat Group-Beta Streptococcus:

Although there are no official studies that prove these methods and they are purely anecdotal, the methods listed here have been used and trusted by traditional medicine practitioners for decades, some for centuries. Some sources even mention that traditional societies have used garlic and diets high in fermented foods to treat these types of issues for thousands of years.

All natural treatments for GBS seek to achieve a common result: to reduce or eliminate the amount of streptococcus bacteria to which the newborn is exposed.

Systemic and Immunotherapy Methods:

•Probiotic Diet - Eating plenty of fermented and cultured foods is an important part of any healthy diet, but especially so when treating a bacterial colonization. Make sure to eat or drink at least 3-4 generous servings of foods high in lactic acid bacteria each day – yogurt, sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables, milk kefir, water kefir, kombucha, and sourdough, for example. You can also sneak probiotics into your condiments and dressings too, so you're packing your diet full of lovely healthy lactobacilli.

•Alkaline Diet - This method won't be particularly helpful for treating GBS by itself, but it can help make other methods more successful by supporting them systemically. Our modern diets, even those who eat only whole foods, are largely acidifying to the body. Harmful bacterium and diseases, such as various cancers, grow and thrive in an acidic environment. Thus, if we eat foods that alkalize the body, we create an environment that is not conducive to supporting those organisms.

•Probiotic Supplements - You can also pack a punch into your system probiotically by using a very high dosage probiotic supplement, usually available at your local health food store or naturopathic pharmacy. You want something with at least 10 billion live organisms per serving.

•Reduce or Eliminate Your Intake of Sugar - Sugar helps bacteria and yeast grow and thrive, so eliminating it from your diet will help quell the growth of the streptococcus bacteria. This is one time when the type of sugar doesn't really matter – sugar is sugar when it comes to how well it helps bacteria grow. Obviously, I recommend sticking with natural sugars as much as possible, but reduce your sweets as much as possible.

Herbal and Probiotic Treatments:

•Probiotic Suppositories - If you want to target the colonization very locally, you can use your probiotic gel caps as a suppository. Insert one vaginally in the morning and another at bedtime.

This can be an especially recommended method, as you want to rid the birth canal of the GBS, but you want lots of good, healthy bacteria for your baby to be exposed to during labor. (Don't believe me? Read Nourished Baby by Heather Dessinger – it's one of the most quick-reading yet thought-provoking guides to proper nourishment for babies and mothers-to-be I know of.)

•Yogurt Douche - I know this one sounds a bit crazy (and you really must make sure you flush all the yogurt out afterward!), but midwives from around the world report that this is successful in dealing with a GBS colonization.

Put 1 cup of yogurt into a douche bag and allow the yogurt to wash over the inner walls for several minutes. If you want to pack an extra punch, pull open one probiotic gel cap and sprinkle the cultures into the yogurt before douching. This should be repeated once or twice a week until delivery.

•Raw Garlic - This is another method that sounds a bit from the annals of quackery, but garlic is a well-known natural antibiotic and bacteria cannot live in the presence of garlic – thus using one large clove as a suppository can be surprisingly effective.

Take one large clove of garlic, puncture it with your fingernails, and insert it vaginally at bedtime. Leave it there overnight and either let it fall out when you urinate in the morning or sew a large loop of thread into it so you can remove it in case it doesn't fall out.

If the thought of using garlic as a suppository is just too… weird… you can ingest the raw garlic instead. You'll need to eat several cloves raw each day, so be creative in getting it into your diet. Add it to salad dressings, sprinkle it raw on top of eggs, or combine it with olive oil as a dip for sourdough bread, for example.

•Herbal Oil Suppositories - Various herbal essential oils, such as oil of oregano, tea tree oil, and rosemary oil, are also antibacterial and create a hostile environment for the streptococcus strain.

To use this method, mix 1-2 drops of essential oil in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Dip or roll a tampon in the oil and insert it, being careful not to shove it directly against the cervix. Leave it there for 4-6 hours and repeat daily.

•Anti-Septic Wash During Labor - Chlorhexidine Gluconate, also named Hibiclens, Dexidin, Stanhexidine, or other brand names, is a surgical antiseptic wash that flushes the vaginal canal during labor. This cleans the area just for the period of time that the baby is in birth canal, which is certainly advantageous.

Strep bacteria are particularly sensitive to chlorhex compounds and thus it can be used to kill the strep without harming the more hardy, normal vaginal flora. Definitely a plus!

Using the wash is quite easy to do and you can find it at your local compounding pharmacy or online.

•Have a Water Birth - According to a number of studies, giving birth in warm water is purportedly the safest way to reduce the baby's chance of contracting GBS. If you are willing to consider a water birth, this is an excellent prophylaxis for a GBS infection

More GBS info from MAM:

In the US, pregnant women are usually screened for the presence of this bacteria between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy.

20-30% will test positive - because it's actually a normal part of the flora.

Those women who test positive will be given antibiotics during labor, to try to prevent illness in baby. This practice isn't done in other countries, because the situation is actually pretty complicated..

Of the women who test positive, about a third will no longer be positive by the time they deliver. About half of women who are positive, will pass the bacteria to their babies- but only 1% of those babies will ever get sick from it. Premature babies, very-low-birth-weight-babies, and those born to mothers whose water has been broken for more than 18 hours are at much greater risk than healthy, full-term infants. For every 200 mothers who get antibiotics in labor, 199 will be unnecessary. Exposure to antibiotics during labor or immediately postpartum is associated with clear increases in obesity, 1BD, juvenile arthritis, and allergies

It's also associated with long-term gut flora disruption, which is not mitigated by giving probiotic supplements along with antibiotics.

However, GBS infection- when it occurs - is very serious, and symptoms are often non-specific. Labored breathing or grunting while breathing, dark color, poor feeding, fever, and fussiness. Any baby displaying these symptoms in the first few days of life should be evaluated immediately.

"Late onset" GBS (after the first week of life) is not related to the mother's colonization, and is usually less serious.

Right now, we don't have enough studies to say what the long-term effects of treating so many babies with antibiotics they may not need is. And since giving these antibiotics is common practice, it will be hard to do those studies.

Some studies show a marked decrease in the risk of GBS infection in mothers who are treated- from about 1.7 per 1000 babies to 0.34 per 1000 babies. Others show that prophylactic antibiotic use isn't as helpful, and doesn't

decrease mortality. (All studies show that prophylactic antibiotic use has no effect on late-onset GBS.)

The bottom line? Take care of your gut flora. Consider whether prophylactic antibiotics are really the right path for you if you don't have any risk factors. Watch your baby carefully in the first few days of life, especially if risk factors are present and don't hesitate to seek care if needed.


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