Group B streptococcal (GBS, or beta strep) bacterial infection during pregnancy can cause preterm birth and life-threatening disease in newborns. The CDC recommends screening for GBS in all near-term women and the administration of antibiotics in labor. Studies reviewed by the Cochrane Collaboration found no fewer newborn deaths than in untreated women. Antibiotics cause severe allergic reactions, an increase in drug-resistant organisms and fungal infections. The lack of evidence-based treatment and efforts to avoid premature delivery have sparked public interest in alternative remedies, even though there are no scientific studies to support claims that natural treatments can prevent or treat GBS infection during pregnancy.
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GBS organisms are found in the gastrointestinal tract, vagina and urethra in about one third of pregnant women. There are usually no symptoms. Men and children can be colonized as well. Gerri Ryan, L.M., Co-Executive Director of the Nizhoni Institute of Midwifery, suggests that GBS overgrowth may be due to the loss of "friendly" bacteria, or probiotics, that normally compete for nutrients and receptor sites to keep infective organisms in check. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and cultured vegetables. Abundant dietary plant fiber from fresh fruit and vegetables help beneficial bacteria to thrive and also boosts levels of infection-fighting vitamin C.
For therapeutic effects, a high potency multi-organism supplement should be taken four times daily between meals and the use of vaginal probiotic suppositories should be considered. Cultures should be checked and repeated to eliminate the possibility of false negatives. GBS bacteria frequently return, even after treatment with antibiotics, which is why these medications are not given earlier in pregnancy.
Also known as the Purple Cone Flower, Echinacea agustifolia is native to Midwestern regions of North America. Susun S. Weed, author of "Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year" writes that she has seen echinacea clear up serious strep infections, and that the herb works as a preventative as well as a curative. Weed recommends making an infusion from 1 oz. echinacea root steeped for 8 hours in 1 pint of boiling water. Two cups per day of this infusion can be taken for up to two weeks. Take at least a two-week break before repeating treatment, if necessary. The anti-infective action of echinacea weakens if used continuously.
Antimicrobial solutions can be used to gently flush the vagina to temporarily reduce or eliminate bacterial colonies. Goldenseal herbal tea, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil or colloidal silver are appropriate choices. Use a bulb syringe while standing in the shower to flush 1 oz. of solution once daily for up to seven days. Discontinue use if vaginal irritation occurs.