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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Lim Sock Ling and Dr Eki Wari on February 21, 2023

How To Care For Yourself If You Are Group B Strep Positive

Published | 5 min read

Group B strep is a type of bacteria that naturally lives in the digestive tract of healthy adults. However, it can be deadly in babies. Learn how to keep yourself and your baby healthy if you have it.

Mom and newborn baby min scaled

In the United States, women are tested for group B strep during pregnancy. If they test positive, they are told their babies may get sick and even die if they are not treated with an antibiotic during childbirth.

As you can imagine, this is a new mother’s worst nightmare. Additionally, most moms do not know what group B strep is or why they have it. This only adds to their stress.

Read on to learn about group B strep, including what it is, the causes and symptoms, and whether or not it can be prevented. Our experts also provide tips for taking care of new moms and their babies after a positive diagnosis.

What Is Group B Strep?

A crying baby wearing a diaper pictured on a white background
A fussy or overly irritable baby may be a sign of group B strep in babies.

Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacteria often present in the body without symptoms. An estimated three in every 10 adults carry the bacteria.

It lives harmlessly in the digestive system as a normal part of your gut flora. In women, the bacteria can also be found in the vagina.

  • Research shows that one in five pregnant women carry the bacteria.
  • If a woman gives birth to her baby while she is group B strep positive, there is a one in two chance that the baby will also get it.
  • Many babies do not get sick. However, approximately two to three out of every 100 babies with group B strep can develop serious complications, such as meningitis, blood poisoning, and pneumonia.

Other possible complications may include long-term disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, learning disabilities, or cerebral palsy.

Group B strep can also lead to stillbirth and premature birth. Approximately one in 10 babies infected with it will die.

Types and symptoms

A neurologist checking a baby for meningitis
Babies who develop late-onset GPS are at risk of meningitis.

There are two types of infections in babies. Early onset occurs in babies up to a week old and late-onset occurs in babies one week old to three months.

Early onset is spread from the mother during birth. It causes approximately 10 percent of infant deaths worldwide. Late onset is not as well understood. It could be due to skin-to-skin content with someone who has it. Babies with late-onset GPS usually develop meningitis.

Approximately two of three cases of GBS infections are early onset. Babies usually develop symptoms within 12 to 24 hours, such as:

  • Becoming floppy or unresponsive
  • Not feeding well
  • Running a fever
  • Grunting
  • Slow or rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Irritability

Pregnant moms and women with group B strep usually have no symptoms. The bacteria are usually not harmful in adults but can be deadly for infants.

Causes

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), group B strep, like any other bacteria, is considered as a pathogen that intrudes the body due to low immunity.

“As the saying goes, when the immunity is strong, pathogens will not intrude the body. When pathogens can implicate you, your immunity must have been compromised.”

TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling.

How Is Group B Strep Treated?

A pregnant woman receiving an IV in the hospital before birth
Pregnant moms who test positive are given an intravenous antibiotic during labor to prevent the spreading of the infection to their babies.

Pregnant mothers are tested for group B strep around 36 to 37 weeks. If a pregnant mom tests positive for group B strep, she will be given antibiotics containing penicillin or ampicillin intravenously during labor to prevent the spreading of bacteria to her baby.

Antibiotics are not given before labor because the bacteria may come back after the round of antibiotics is finished. Therefore, the baby may still be at risk of infection.

TCM Treatments For Group B Strep

“TCM’s treatment methodology is to clear Heat, remove toxins, and strengthen immunity to remove pathogens,” stated Physician Lim. She recommends the following tips to support healthy vaginal flora:

  • Garlic: Research shows that garlic contains natural antibiotic properties and is effective against a wide spectrum of bacteria, fungi and viruses. A 2021 study found that garlic contains compounds that are effective against the group B strep bacteria.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil also contains natural antibiotic properties. One study found that coconut oil was as effective as chlorhexidine in the reduction of Streptococcus mutans. More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of coconut oil and group B strep during pregnancy.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables that contain high amounts of vitamin C boost immune health. It’s also a good idea to take a prenatal multivitamin daily with vitamin C.
  • Fermented foods help create a healthy gut environment, such as Kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. Research shows that oral probiotics reduce vaginal group B streptococcal colonization in late pregnancy.
  • Maintain proper hygiene, drink lots of water, and eat a balanced diet low in processed sugars to prevent bacteria overgrow and support healthy vaginal flora.

It should be noted that these herbs should not be used to replace treatment with antibiotics. They can be used supportively and to boost immunity, but once diagnosed, the woman should ensure she takes the antibiotics. Additionally, these foods are to be eaten, not put into the vagina.

Herbal remedies

According to the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Rhizoma Coptidis (Huang Lian) has significant antimicrobial activity against a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, such as Streptococcus pneumonia.”

TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling.

Other Heat-clearing Chinese herbs with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects include:

“Note that Scutellaria baicalensis (Huang Qin) can calm the fetus and is suitable for consumption during pregnancy to clear Heat,” stated Physician Lim. You can also clear Heat in your baby and keep their skin free of infections and pathogens by giving them an herbal bath with Chinese herbs.

Talk To Your Doctor About Safety Measures

If you are a pregnant woman concerned about group B strep, talk to your doctor about getting tested. Most doctors will tell you that treatment is simple and only requires you to receive an antibiotic during labor.

A TCM practitioner is useful if you are interested in protecting yourself naturally. There are steps you can take to reduce harmful bacteria in your body. Be sure to consult your doctor or a TCM physician before giving any herbs or medicines to your baby.

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