What is Beta Strep?

Allison Boelcke

Beta strep, also referred to as Group B streptococcus, is a type of bacteria that often affects pregnant women but can occur in anyone. It is related to the bacteria that causes strep throat. Beta step bacteria may, on rare occasions, result in a mild infection that can typically be easily treated with medication. If the infection is not effectively treated during pregnancy, it can be transmitted to the unborn child and cause serious health risks, as well as death.

Beta strep may form in the rectum, bladder, and vagina.
Beta strep may form in the rectum, bladder, and vagina.

The most common areas of the body for beta strep to form are the rectum, bladder, vagina, and mouth. Adults with the bacteria can usually remain healthy and have no symptoms. If the bacteria multiplies, it can result in infections of the bladder, kidneys, or uterus.

A child who is born with beta strep that spreads to his or her brain may experience learning difficulties throughout life.
A child who is born with beta strep that spreads to his or her brain may experience learning difficulties throughout life.

Since this kind of strep doesn’t generally cause any symptoms, pregnant women are generally tested for it so it can be treated to prevent spreading it to the unborn child. A doctor will typically take a cell sample from the vagina or rectum and examine it for signs of the bacteria. If the bacteria is present, a doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to get rid of it before it escalates into an infection. An untreated infection can result in health complications for the woman, such as an intense fever or pain during urination.

Beta strep often affects pregnant women.
Beta strep often affects pregnant women.

Even if the infection is treated with antibiotics before the birth, the bacteria can still grow back enough to infect the child during labor. Women who have tested positive for beta strep will typically be given a continuous stream of antibiotics directly into their veins during the entire labor process. This can help to further reduce the chances of the child coming into contact with any remaining bacteria.

A child who is born with beta strep transmitted from his or her mother may still be born healthy with no symptoms. If the bacteria ends up causing an infection in the child, it can have both short- and long-term health effects. It can result in a lung or blood infection or in serious cases, spread to the brain. A strep infection that affects the brain is more likely to cause more serious developmental problems, such as difficulty learning, as well as the possibility of deafness or blindness. The infection can be fatal in a child if it is not immediately treated with antibiotics.

Children who are infected with the bacteria may show few symptoms, which may not be easily detected. They may appear lethargic or moody. A child with the infection may refuse breast milk or formula, or may end up vomiting when he or she does eat. He or she may also have a high fever.

Pregnant women diagnosed with beta strep should take antibiotics as prescribed.
Pregnant women diagnosed with beta strep should take antibiotics as prescribed.

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Discussion Comments


Actually, beta streptococcus is a term for several different strep species which include, group b, which is known to cause severe illness in newborns and group a, which is the classical strep throat. Group a has multiple disease syndromes, including the dreaded skin eating bacteria.


I'm nine months pregnant with my first born son. I came back from my ob/gyn appointment and the doctor told me that my tests came back positive for beta strep.

I'm so upset and sacred right now I don't even know what to do. I'm now so enraged and angry with my doctor that he didn't prescribe something for me while I'm still pregnant.


I have beta strep and have been on several different antibiotics and the strep re-occurs when the antibiotic regiment if finished. During the time I take the antibiotic, my blood sugar levels get down to normal, but spike a few days after the antibiotic is finished. I am under a doctor's care.


I tested positive for Beta Strep and even though I had antibiotics it was passed on to my newborn and she was very sick. She was in the NICU for nine days. And now at seven years old, she is tube fed and has various neurological problems. Fern Valley made a comment about having it on your genitals. It is not like strep throat. The only thing it did to me was give me a bladder infection. Other than that, you wouldn't know you're positive.


I didn't realize there were other sorts of strep besides strep throat. Considering how difficult strep throat can be, I hope that these strep symptoms can at least be prevented from recurrence more easily- I know people who had strep multiple times a year, it was so easy for them to re-contract it.


Ugh, I cannot imagine having something like strep, only in places like the genitals. that just sounds painful and messy. I am glad, though, that there are at least good treatments available to help keep pregnant women from passing it to the child in labor.

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