Written by: Joy Allan, Registered Midwife
Group B Streptococcus, or GBS, is one of the many different types of bacteria that normally lives in our bodies. This common gut bacteria lives in our bodies without us even knowing, there are no signs or symptoms that we even have it. Since it is a common gut bacteria and our vagina is so close to our rectum, if it is in our gut, it is often in our vagina as well. The thing is, if we are NOT pregnant, we don’t worry about it. It is a transient bacteria that comes and goes. It has a lifespan of about 5 weeks so your body will often balance itself and the bacteria dies without us having to treat it.
GBS In Pregnancy
So why do we care about it during pregnancy?? To be honest, we don’t even care if you have it during most of your pregnancy. The GBS test is a vaginal and rectal swab performed at between 35-37 weeks of pregnancy to test for the presence of Group B Strep bacteria.
Whether or not you have a vaginal GBS infection becomes important only when we think about the birth of your baby. This is because babies are born with immature immune system. Since they have been floating around in sterile amniotic fluid, they don’t have any gut flora (good or bad) to help kill GBS if they come in contact with it. As a result, if your baby comes in contact with GBS in your vagina during the birth, they can become infected with it. GBS infection in baby’s can be VERY serious! In newborns, GBS is a major cause of meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and sepsis (infection of the blood). Babies who become sick with GBS need long hospital stays in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) with IV antibiotic treatment. In the worst case scenario, baby's can die from a GBS infection.
Sounds scary, but take a deep breath! There is good news. First, GBS naturally occurs in about 10-30% of healthy pregnant women and only has a 1% chance of passing from mother to baby during labour. Secondly, Research shows that IV antibiotics given to pregnant women at the start of labour or from the time their membranes rupture (waters break) can prevent most GBS infections in newborn babies. If you are GBS positive, it is strongly recommended that you receive IV antibiotics when you are in active labour and/or if your water breaks.
Here’s even better news! Often a GBS positive result can be prevented before the test occurs. Dr Kaleigh Coolsaet & Dr. Janine Mackenzie, Naturopathic Doctor’s at Cheam Wellness Group, offer these recommendations to help decrease your chance of a positive result...
GBS Prevention Protocol
Begin 2-4 weeks prior to GBS test – ideally week 32 (test between week 35-37)
Cut out all sugar
2 tbsp ground flax per day – in smoothies, on salads, on proteins, etc. (be mindful to increase water also)
Daily oral probiotics if not already taking one
Daily Echinacea – liquid 5 ml per day or capsule/ tablet 1250 mg per day
Optional: peeled garlic clove inserted into your vagina at night 2-3 inches and removed in the morning
Highly recommended – vaginal probiotics – HMF Candigen contains garlic and probiotics in a vaginal suppository
After Birth Protocol (if GBS positive and used antibiotics during delivery)
High dose probiotics – at least 100 billion for 1 month following delivery
HMF Baby for breastfed or formula fed babies – 10 billion for first 6 months
NOTE: Vaginal seeding following C-section:
Not recommended for GBS positive women
If you’ve had a history of vaginal infections, seeing a Naturopathic Doctor can also be beneficial during pregnancy.