The Effects Of Strep Throat While Pregnant

Strep throat is an infectious condition caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Person-to-person transmission occurs through respiratory droplets, saliva, nasal discharge, and wound secretions. If you are in contact with school-aged children, you have a higher risk of getting strep throat. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strep throat causes an estimated 5.2 million¹ outpatient visits and 2.8 million antibiotic prescriptions annually. As it’s so common, you may contract strep throat while pregnant. 

A big concern about any viral or bacterial infection while pregnant is whether it will harm the pregnancy. Let's look at the symptoms of strep throat and everything else you need to know.

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How does strep throat appear?

It takes about two to five days to become ill with strep throat symptoms after exposure to group A strep. Initial symptoms include a sudden sore throat that causes pain while swallowing and fever. Other symptoms may include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

  • Swollen tonsils, which may have white patches

  • Tiny red spots on the back of the roof of the mouth

  • Headache

  • Body aches

  • A rash is known as scarlet fever

Can strep throat affect my unborn baby?

Generally, no. However, one of the symptoms of strep throat is fever. Research has linked high maternal fever during early pregnancy with certain neural tube defects (e.g., spina bifida) and congenital heart diseases. 

To bring down a fever, rest, drink plenty of water, and take acetaminophen as it reduces fever and is safe for pregnancy. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned.

Facts about group B Streptococcus (strep)

Not many people know that there are two types of Streptococcus bacteria: Group A and group B. Let's look at group B Streptococcus and how this can affect your pregnancy.

Strep throat is different from group B Streptococcus. While this common infection resides in the vaginal or rectal area, it’s not a sexually transmitted disease.

To ensure it doesn’t pass to your baby during delivery, doctors commonly screen for it and treat it before you give birth. Outside of pregnancy, being a group B strep carrier is harmless.

Diagnosis of strep throat during pregnancy

When your doctor physically examines you, they may see red and swollen tonsils with possible white patches or spots. They may also see tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth. The doctor may also examine the front of your neck to feel for swollen lymph nodes.

Once the doctor concludes their physical examination and notes these signs of strep throat, they may order tests to confirm their findings. 

How a doctor performs a rapid strep test

A rapid strep test helps your doctor determine your treatment. They will swab your throat and then immediately run a test on the swab. If the test is negative, and your doctor still suspects strep throat, they may perform a throat culture swab. 

What is a throat culture swab?

This test requires more waiting time for the results, but the test is more accurate and may pinpoint infections that the rapid strep test did not indicate. It takes more time because the doctor will swab your throat and wait to see if strep bacteria grow from your swab sample.

How is strep throat treated during pregnancy?

When your doctor determines that you have strep throat, the goal is to get you feeling better and more comfortable. Antibiotics and home remedies will fight the bacteria and beat your symptoms sooner. Treatment also reduces the chances of complications and passing the bacteria to other people.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are safe for the mother and baby if you strictly follow the doctor's instructions. An overdose or insufficient dosage of antibiotics can be harmful during pregnancy. Your doctor will most likely prescribe these antibiotics:

  • Cephalexin

  • Penicillin

  • Amoxicillin

Home remedies

Paracetamol is an over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer found in Tylenol, Mapap, or Panadol. It’s safe to take while treating your strep throat while pregnant. Avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen during pregnancy unless your doctor advises you otherwise.

Other home remedies that will reduce your symptoms and treat your condition are:

  • Gargling with warm salt water

  • Consuming hot water with a pinch of turmeric added

  • Drinking caffeine-free herbal teas

Should I be worried about a sore throat while pregnant?

A sore throat doesn't necessarily mean strep throat: Other viruses may be the problem. 

You may have symptoms indicating a viral infection, such as nasal discharge, sneezing, or coughing. Seek advice from a doctor to ensure it's not a severe condition. They will advise the best treatment to make you more comfortable.

When should you see a doctor? 

It's uncommon, but serious complications can happen due to your body's immune system fighting the strep throat infection. If you feel worse after a while, see a doctor immediately. Severe complications that can occur include:

  • Abscesses on the tonsils or in the neck area

  • Sinus infections

  • Ear infections

  • Rheumatic fever affects the heart, joints, brain, and skin

  • Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis,² a rare kidney disease

The lowdown

Understandably, you may be concerned about any viral or bacterial infection causing harm to you or your baby. If you have strep throat, it’s important to reduce your fever and seek medical treatment.

Antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers are safe to take while pregnant, so you can manage your condition without worrying about harming your baby.

Curious about clinical trials for Strep throat?

Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Strep throat.

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