Preventing Group B Strep Colonization in Pregnancy

For clients of Gentle Delivery, you know that routine Group B Strep testing is offered to every expectant mom in accordance with the ACOG standards of care. While the pros and cons of testing and subsequent treatment plans are discussed in detail elsewhere, the purpose of this post is to help you to minimize your risk of developing Group B Strep colonization during pregnancy, thus promoting better health for you and baby (and increasing your chances of obtaining a negative test result!).

If you are interested in researching Group B Strep info, I’d strongly encourage you to read Aviva Romm’s article: Group B Strep in Pregnancy: What’s a Mom to do? You’ll find clear explanations of GBS, risks and benefits of antibiotic treatment, and tips on promoting health. This post by Wellness Mama also includes further links for study along with Katie’s suggestions for avoiding GBS colonization with natural methods: How I Avoided GBS Naturally  And finally, this article provides a few other options to consider while making decisions on prevention and treatment: Decrease Your Chances of GBS

As a practicing CPM in a state that does not offer licensure, I am currently unable to offer IV antibiotic treatment to GBS+ clients. This increases my desire to do all I can to help support a mom’s immune system and decrease the possibility of a GBS+ test result, as it greatly simplifies the care protocols and necessary decision making for clients and their families!

So here are the primary suggestions for making your vaginal flora inhospitable to Group B Strep:

  • High Quality Probiotics (if not started early on in pregnancy, then beginning at 28-32 weeks orally, adding vaginal support at 32-34 weeks)

“Many species of Lactobacillus have been shown to be beneficial to the vaginal flora; Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosis are species known to be especially helpful for supporting healthy vaginal (and bladder) flora, while these and others, including L crispatus and L. salivarius strains, have been shown to to inhibit the growth of vaginal pathogens including Gardnerella vaginalis and Candida albicans, and also reducing the frequency of bladder infections in addition to vaginal infection.

In one study, 110 pregnant women at 35-37 weeks of gestation who were diagnosed by GBS culture as being GBS positive for both vaginal and rectal GBS colonization were randomly assigned to be orally treated with two placebo capsules or two probiotic capsules (containing L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri ) before bedtime until delivery. All women were tested for vaginal and rectal GBS colonization again by GBS culture on admission for delivery. Of the 99 who completed the study (49 in the probiotic group and 50 in the placebo group), the GBS colonization results changed from positive to negative in 21 women in the probiotic group (42.9%) and in nine women in the placebo group (18.0%) during this period. The researchers concluded that an oral probiotic containing L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri could reduce the vaginal and rectal GBS colonization rate in pregnant women.

In another study involving 57 healthy pregnant women, L. salivarus was taken daily by the 25 GBS positive women in the group from weeks 26 to 38 of pregnancy. At the end of the trial (week 38), 72% and 68% of the women were GBS-negative in the rectal and vaginal samples, respectively. The researchers concluded that this seemed to be an efficient method to reduce the number of GBS-positive women during pregnancy, decreasing the number of women receiving antibiotic treatment during labor and birth.”  (copied from Aviva Romm’s article here)

In light of these studies, and knowing that probiotics are vitally important to the health of both mom and infant for a variety of reasons, supplementing regularly with probiotics during pregnancy can be beneficial in more ways than one. For GBS specific support, it’s recommended that you begin supplementing orally at 28-32 weeks (though earlier is even better!), and then increasing your oral dosage and consider using a probiotic vaginally for at least 2-4 weeks before your Group B Strep test (and then continue the oral support through the rest of your pregnancy).

As you shop for probiotics, pay attention to the different strains it includes, as not all probiotics are created equal, and they will be most effective against GBS strains if it includes L. Rhamnosus, L. Reuteri and L. Salivarus.

Some brand suggestions that other midwives have given me are:

  • Diet Support
    • Eating a diet high in fermented foods/drinks (kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, etc.) help to promote a healthy gut flora.
    • Eliminating sugar and simple carbs are also effective in promoting beneficial gut flora.
    • Add 1-2 tbl of coconut oil into your daily diet for it’s antibiotic properties, specifically in the few weeks prior to testing.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar consumed daily or in capsule form may be helpful.
  • Vitamin C
    • Consuming 1000-2000mg of high quality vitamin C daily (in divided does) can help to increase your body’s immune response, which makes it more difficult for unhealthy microorganisms to grow. You can begin this regimen around 30 weeks.
  • Garlic/Allicin (active component of garlic)
    • Garlic has been used as an antimicrobial agent for generations, and for good reason. However, high doses of garlic can cause blood thinning, so I don’t recommend staying on high doses of garlic or allicin after obtaining your GBS test. But it is a treatment to consider to reduce the possibility of GBS colonization before getting tested. Currently there is a midwife practice conducting a study where participants are instructed to use Allicin Gel 2x daily for 12-14 days along with ingesting 180mg of Allicin capsules 2x daily for 12-14 days prior to testing. The basis for this study is from a preliminary study done in 2009 where Allicin was shown to reduce the possibility of early rupture of membranes and chorioamnionitis, both of which can be complications of GBS infection. Other methods of using garlic include: taking garlic capsules daily, consume raw garlic daily, and/or insert a raw garlic clove vaginally at night before going to bed.

            While we still have a lot to learn about Group B Strep (how exactly it is transmitted, best ways to treat it, and how to prevent it from the beginning), and while there still seem to be a few moms who naturally carry Group B Strep bacteria in their vaginal tract no matter what they try to do about it (antibiotic or otherwise!), one of the benefits of utilizing these suggestions is that they promote health for mom and baby regardless of the GBS presence (or lack thereof). While obtaining a negative Group B Strep test does eliminate a certain amount of worry, risk and decisions, the benefit to your body of increasing the good bacteria and gut flora through healthy foods, probiotic supplementation and other factors may provide long-term benefits that you will see later on. I’d highly encourage every pregnant mom to consider these suggestions, and wish each of you a healthy and safe pregnancy and birth!

            I’d also love to hear: did you try any of these prevention methods? How did it affect you and your GBS status? Did you test positive in one pregnancy and then negative in another? What was most beneficial for you?

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