The thought of testing postive for Group-B Streptococcus (aka GBS) scares a lot of pregnant women. But it doesn't have to be scary. By following a healthy prenatal diet and keeping a couple of tricks in your hip pocket, you too can avoid Group-B Strep during pregnancy and birth.
When it comes to being GBS positive during pregnancy, there are two opposing camps. There's conventional Western medicine which only addresses GBS after it becomes a problem and advocates IV antibiotics during labor for all women who test positive. Then there are the midwives who try to address GBS before it becomes a problem and will recommend myriad therapies as an alternative to IV antibiotics in the event a woman tests positive.
The reason for this dichotomy is that when it comes to life or death matters (which, for a newborn, GBS can be), doctors see things in black and white. Either scientific research proves a technique or protocol is effective in its stated function or it doesn't. In the case of GBS, the only proven treatment is intravenous antibiotics. That's not to say that other methods haven't been shown as effective, but not to the degree necessary to be classified as "proven".
On the other hand, midwives contest that late onset GBS in newborns is so rare (1:1000) that hospital protocols do more harm than good. Instead, midwives point out that IV antibiotics kill off all good bacteria as well as bad, leading to conditions such thrush in the newborn, contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistant superbugs, and increase the chances of baby catching even more life threatening bacteria with all the good, protective bacteria gone. Instead of applying a one size fits all approach, midwives prefer to do more detective work up front and after the labor to determine if this mom and this baby are at risk from GBS complications. Midwives, who typically see fewer patients, have that luxury. On the other hand, OBs, who see tenfold more patients, cannot give each pregnant woman that much individualized attention and, in an effort to avoid losing any babies to GBS, apply a proven procedure in all cases, regardless of risk factors and side effects.
Now, this whole debate can be avoided pretty easily, for the most part. Don't be GBS positive. How? Well, for starters, ignore that old saying about how now that you're pregnant, you can eat anything you want. That's bull. You can eat as much as you want, true, but you have to eat good stuff. Too much sugar will throw off the pH in your gut and lead to an over colonization of bad bacteria, including GBS. Once GBS is over colonized in the GI tract, it spreads to your rectum, then your vagina, then even to your urinary tract (a source of UTIs).
Here are five things you should put in your mouth (and other places) during pregnancy to avoid being GBS positive:
Fermented foods: yogurt, Kefir, tempeh, sour kraut, kim chee
These foods contain probiotics, in other words, good bacteria. You want to maintain a healthy supply of good bacteria in your GI tract which will essentially crowd out the bad bacteria. Everyday, three times a day, eat a probiotic rich food.
Fiber rich foods: whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables
This is not your typical plea to eat right and feel great. Fiber rich foods are prebiotics, which are basically food for the good bacteria. Think of these foods like fertilizer for your lawn. If you want thick, lush lawn cover (good bacteria in your gut) you need to feed it lawn food (prebiotics). If you don't, the lawn will thin out and allow the weeds (bad bacteria) to take over. Feed your lawn!
Just like you take your prenatal vitamins, take a probiotic supplement. Go to a Whole Foods type establishment, find their refrigerated supplements section and buy a good probiotic supplement. And then keep it refrigerated. Take it every day on an empty stomach.
There are two ways to take garlic when talking about GBS. One is more hard-core than the other. The first way is to take it by mouth. This bolsters your immune system and protects from a GBS infection (different from GBS colonization). Eat garlic raw for maximum benefit; it's peppery and goes well in cold turkey sandwiches. The other way is to put it in your... yup, in your vagina. Crush it and shove it up in there several days in a row before your GBS test. (Just remember to take it back out!) Garlic is renowned for its anti microbial properties but there's no money to be made from researching it (only lost) so no one's studied it scientifically. Be forewarned: you will smell like garlic.
This Traditional Chinese Medicine genital wash has been widely used in China to treat a variety of genital ailments, including STDs. Now, I am not a doctor of any kind, and I would not entrust this product to cure Herpes, but I did want to mention it as an effective means to combat GBS in the birth canal and rectum. Formulated from a variety of Chinese roots and herbal extracts, the wash must be diluted before application. It has a musky, Oriental smell and brown color. Seek the counsel of your midwife or a Chinese medicine doctor for further information before trying.
Sample menu for avoiding GBS (and having a healthy pregnancy)
1/4 cup uncooked steel cut oats
- cooked in 1 cup whole milk (or soy)
Brown sugar, walnuts and craisins for garnish
8oz orange juice (calcium fortified)
Brown rice salad with:
- tender young asparagus
- baby spinach
- red onion
- dried apricots
- smoked Gouda
- quartered artichoke hearts
- diced tempeh
- balsamic vinaigrette
- slivered almonds
Apple or pear
4-6oz sirloin steak
8oz of Greek yogurt with 2 tbsp of honey
To read more on the topics discussed here, please visit:
Harvard.edu: Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics
Prebiotic Canada: Prebiotic Fibre
The Contrarian Mom: Group B Strep – Easy, Natural Treatments For Group B Strep
Monica is a Certified HypnoBirthing® practitioner serving the Northern Virginia area, DC and some parts of Maryland. Her practice is called NoVA HypnoBirthing® LLC and she provides group as well as private classes.