Integrative Nutrition for Women's Health 

Understanding Group B Strep (GBS) in Pregnancy: What Every Mom Needs to Know

Pregnancy is a time of joy and anticipation, but it also comes with its share of medical concerns, one of which is Group B Streptococcus (GBS). Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding GBS and how to manage it during pregnancy.

Pregnant woman learning about GBS in pregnancy

What Is Group B Streptococcus?

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a type of bacterial infection found in the digestive and lower reproductive tracts of both men and women. While generally harmless in adults, it can pose serious risks to newborns if transmitted during childbirth.

Doctor explaining to pregnant woman the health risk of testing positive for Group B Strep

The Risks Associated with GBS in Pregnancy

For pregnant women, the primary concern with GBS is the risk of passing the infection to the baby during delivery, which can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, meningitis, or sepsis in newborns.

Screening for GBS: What to Expect

Screening for GBS is a standard part of prenatal care and is typically conducted between the 35th and 37th weeks of pregnancy. The process involves swabbing the vagina and rectum and testing the swabs for the presence of GBS bacteria. Some practices allow women to perform this test themselves, so that is something you can ask your provider about. It’s usually a very easy and quick procedure.

Preventative Measures and Treatment

Antibiotics During Labor

The most effective way to prevent the transmission of GBS to newborns is through the administration of antibiotics during labor. Penicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic, but there are alternatives for those allergic to penicillin.

Holistic Approaches: A Functional Medicine Perspective on Preventing GBS in Pregnancy

In the realm of functional medicine, the emphasis is on understanding the root causes of health issues and addressing them through natural, often lifestyle-based interventions. When it comes to managing Group B Streptococcus (GBS) during pregnancy, functional medicine offers several strategies aimed at reducing colonization and enhancing overall maternal and fetal health. It’s important to remember, though, that while these methods can complement traditional medical advice, they should not replace it. Always discuss any new approach with your healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for you and your baby.

Dietary Changes

A nutritious diet plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and can influence the body’s microbial environment, including the presence of GBS. Functional medicine advocates for a diet rich in whole foods, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods support the immune system and can create an inhospitable environment for harmful bacteria while promoting beneficial gut flora.

  • Garlic: Known for its natural antibiotic properties, garlic can be a powerful food-based approach to managing GBS. Consuming garlic regularly, whether raw or cooked, may help reduce GBS colonization.
  • Fermented Foods: Foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha are rich in probiotics, which can balance the body’s microbiome and potentially lower the risk of GBS colonization.

Probiotic Supplementation

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for digestive health. Specific probiotic strains have been researched for their potential to reduce GBS colonization:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14: These strains, often found in vaginal health-focused probiotic supplements, may help in reducing the colonization of GBS by promoting a healthy vaginal microbiota.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: Commonly found in many probiotic supplements and fermented foods, this strain can support general gut health, which may indirectly influence GBS levels.

It’s essential to choose high-quality probiotic supplements and discuss the appropriate strains and dosages with a healthcare provider familiar with functional medicine and pregnancy.

To check out the probiotics I recommend to my patients, click here.

A healthy baby boy

Natural Supplements

Certain supplements may support the body’s natural defense mechanisms against GBS:

  • Vitamin C: Known for its immune-boosting properties, vitamin C can help strengthen the body’s resistance to infections. Some functional medicine practitioners recommend vitamin C supplements as a part of a holistic approach to reducing GBS risk.

The Importance of Informed Decision-Making

Deciding on the best approach to manage GBS during pregnancy requires access to accurate information and thoughtful consideration of the available options. It’s essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to make informed decisions that align with your health needs and pregnancy plan.

FAQs About GBS in Pregnancy

  • When is GBS testing done during pregnancy?
    • 35th-37th week of pregnancy
  • What if I test positive for GBS?
    • Antibiotics Administration: If you test positive for GBS, you’ll be given intravenous (IV) antibiotics once you’re in labor or your water breaks. The antibiotics help to decrease the amount of GBS bacteria present, reducing the risk of transmitting GBS to your baby during childbirth. Penicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic for GBS, but there are alternatives if you’re allergic.
    • Observation: Babies born to GBS-positive mothers are closely monitored for signs of infection, which can include issues like difficulty breathing, unusual changes in temperature, and lethargy.
  • How does GBS affect my newborn?
    • Early-Onset Disease: This occurs within the first week of life, typically within the first 24 hours after birth. It’s the most common form of GBS disease in newborns and is usually acquired during delivery. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, lethargy, feeding problems, instability in body temperature, and, in severe cases, sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis.
    • Late-Onset Disease: This can occur from the first week up to several months after birth. It is less common than early-onset disease and is not always linked to exposure during delivery. The bacteria can come from the mother or the environment. Late-onset disease can also lead to sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis, as well as other complications like arthritis and skin infections.

Final Thoughts

While GBS can pose risks during pregnancy, awareness and proper management can significantly reduce these risks, ensuring a safe and healthy outcome for both mother and baby. By understanding GBS and working with your healthcare team, you can navigate your pregnancy with confidence and peace of mind.

Remember, every pregnancy is unique, so it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and treatment options.

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  • Diagnosis, treatment, and complications of Group B strep | CDC. (n.d.).
  • Website, N. (2022, December 6). Group B strep.
  • Group B strep and pregnancy. (n.d.). ACOG.
  • Morgan, J. A., Zafar, N., & Cooper, D. B. (2023, July 24). Group B Streptococcus and pregnancy. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf.
  • Romm, A. (2023, January 26). Group B Strep (GBS) in Pregnancy and Birth: What’s a Mom to Do? Aviva Romm, MD.
  • Chen, X., Cao, S., Fu, X., Ni, Y., Huang, B., Wu, J., Chen, L., Huang, S., Cao, J., Yu, W., & Ye, H. (2023). The risk factors for Group B Streptococcus colonization during pregnancy and influences of intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis on maternal and neonatal outcomes. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (Online), 23(1).





Understanding Group B Strep (GBS) in Pregnancy: What Every Mom Needs to Know

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