Strep Throat During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
Rest assured you are not alone if questioning strep throat during pregnancy. No one wants strep throat at any time, but pregnant moms don’t need the additional struggles. There is no association between strep throat and pregnancy. Unfortunately you are just at risk for strep throat during pregnancy as when you are when not pregnant.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat and the tonsils. The throat gets irritated and inflamed, causing a sudden, severe sore throat. Strep throat is caused by streptococcal (strep) bacteria. There are many different types of strep bacteria. Some cause more serious illness than others.
Having a sore throat does not mean you have strep throat. Allergies and other infections can easily cause inflammation and irritation in your throat. If you have a sore throat that is accompanied with a fever you should check in with your doctor. Your doctor will give you a “strep test” (culture collected by a swab to the tonsils) to determine if it is a strep infection.
Please be aware that sometimes you can have a viral infection that causes a sore throat which is accompanied by sneezing and running nose. This is different than strep throat, which is a bacterial infection. If your healthcare provider determines that you have strep throat, she will look to treat you through antibiotics. You should also get plenty of rest so that your body is able to properly heal.
Strep Throat versus Group B
Sometimes the words strep throat lead people to an internet search where they may discover Group B streptococcus. This is a completely different and unrelated bacteria. Group B streptococcus is a type of infection found in the vaginal or rectal area that the mother can pass along to her baby during delivery. Most women are screened between the 35th and 37th week for the presence of this infection. (This is not a sexually transmitted disease.)
It is a common infection that is usually not passed to your child. Remember, Group B streptococcus is not related to the bacteria that causes strep throat. So, if your doctor said something about strep throat, you don’t have to worry about Group B.
Symptoms of strep throat during pregnancy
You are pregnant and experience a variety of symptoms. You know you don’t feel well, but your biggest question is “What do I have?”
If you are worried that you might have strep throat, you can take a look at the symptoms below:
- Pain in the throat
- Red and swollen tonsils
- The white spots in the throat or tonsils
- Weakness and fatigue, lack of energy
- Difficulty while eating and swallowing
- Inflammation of the throat
- Swelling around the neck
- Excessive sweating
- Enlargement of lymph nodes
- Loss of appetite
- Cough, nausea
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
Please note that you do not have to have all of these symptoms to have strep throat during pregnancy. Look for a combination of symptoms and contact your health care provider to let her know what you are experiencing.
Treating Strep Throat During Pregnancy
Strep throat is treated with antibiotics, which kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. The most common antibiotics to treat Step Throat are cephalexin, penicillin and amoxicillin. You must strictly follow the doctor’s instructions regarding the dosage. Overdose of antibiotics can be harmful to the mother and the baby. Keep in mind, insufficient intake of antibiotics can lead to recurrent infections that can again be harmful to the mother and baby. Antibiotics help reduce fever as well.
Cephalexin is classified pregnancy category B. Animal data suggest that cephalexin does not impair fertility or cause harm to the fetus. Cephalexin does cross the placenta and distributes to fetal tissues. However, there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because limited data are available, cephalexin should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed.
Penicillin is in the pregnancy category B. This drug has shown no negative impact on pregnancy in women free of penicillin allergy. Diarrhea is often associated with antibiotic use. If diarrhea appears to contain blood or lasts for more than a few days, contact your physician as this could be a sign of an allergy to penicillin. Penicillin passes into breast milk in small amounts. There are no reported negative side effects associated with penicillin use while breastfeeding.
Amoxicillin has been assigned to pregnancy category B by the FDA. Animal studies using 10 times the human dose have failed to reveal any evidence of teratogenicity (no effect on growth or development of baby). Although no controlled data in human pregnancy are available, literature reports of adverse fetal effects are lacking. Amoxicillin is only recommended during pregnancy when benefit outweighs risk.
Managing strep throat during pregnancy from home
Please note that there are home remedies for managing strep throat during pregnancy. These treatments are to help relieve the symptoms. You can take the recommended dose of paracetamol, a widely used over-the-counter analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer). However, avoid taking aspirin (i.e. Bayer), and ibuprofen (i.e. Advil, Motrin).
Cold liquids sometimes aggravate a sore throat so limit or even avoid cold drinks. You may find that gargling with warm salt water relieves the symptoms of sore throat during pregnancy. Some women report that adding a pinch of turmeric to hot water provides relief as well. You might look for various caffeine free herbal teas such as green tea, chamomile tea, lemon tea with cinnamon, which may work as natural painkillers to help reduce the soreness of your throat.
Preventing Strep Throat While Pregnant
Keep in mind that water and other fluids keep the body hydrated, which reduces the risk of infections during pregnancy. So take the necessary measures to prevent throat infections during pregnancy. One of the most important things you can do is wash your hands regularly, particularly when you are out in public.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. (2010, March). Ibuprofen and pregnancy.