Why are new mothers susceptible to Strep A?
Experts conclude that for women postpartum, strep A infections are quite rare, however, the infections seem to be higher for women after birth. There is no true evidence supporting the reasons why this happens.
A doctor from Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) in southern Ontario has a theory that he shared with Global News: “It might be some subtle changes that happen to the body around pregnancy. It might simply be that there might be open wounds and the normal skin barriers aren’t entirely closed so there is a greater opportunity for the bacteria to become invasive,” infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said.
There is another theory that states that it could be hormonal changes, where some women become more susceptible than others to infection.
A study on pregnancy-related Group A streptococcal Infections (GAS) discovered that pregnancy-related GAS infections occurred predominantly in the postpartum period. This study relies on PubMed database for the period 1974–2009.
A report from 2010 stated that postpartum women had 20 times higher chances of getting a strep-A infection than women who were not pregnant. This same study gives three possible reasons for this:
- The mucosal and cutaneous barriers are more open and susceptible to disease. This could be an open cervix, an episiotomy, a cesarean section, or vaginal mucosal tears.
- Innate immunity being suppressed due to the very act of delivering.
- Growth of the organisms could be favored by a more neutral vaginal pH.
Studies have also suggested that there could be a genetic predisposition at presenting all the ideal conditions and pH levels to favor the growth of Strep A.
The severity of a possible infection with Strep A seems to be overlooked or underestimated. If a woman postpartum becomes infected with Strep A, her life could even be at risk.