Colds & Flus in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman illness Well, its that time of year…with the cold weather comes the cold and flu season.  Unfortunately, pregnant women are not immune to these common illnesses.  The good news is that, so long as a pregnant woman stays nourished with foods and fluids, colds and flus do not generally pose any threat to mom or baby.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as:

  • A fever
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Persistent coughing

It is a good idea to contact your care provider.

 Preventing Colds and Flus

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is the best approach to preventing illness during pregnancy.

Basic self-care to prevent illness includes:

  • Eating nutritious and whole foods
  • Getting enough rest and sleep
  • Reducing stress
  • Getting regular moderate exercise
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • STAY WELL HYDRATED!

Of course, situations and factors outside of our control can make maintaining all of these elements difficult.

 First signs of illness: Take a time out

Excusing ourselves from our daily responsibilities at the first sign of illness can go a long way in preventing or reducing the duration and severity of our illness.  If possible, step away from all that can be left for another time—turn off the phone, ask for help with other children, take a sick day at work, cancel social engagements and do what nurtures you.  That could be taking a warm bath, enjoying a warm cup of tea, snuggling into bed with a good book or movie, listening to soothing music, some gentle yoga poses, a long nap, or something else.

Eating and drinking during illness

For some of us, colds and flus wipe out our appetite.  While this may be a natural by-product of the body’s fight against illness, our babies still need nourishment!  For this reason, it is important to continue to eat even when you are feeling sick.  If food doesn’t sound the least bit interesting, try clear veggie or meat broths, soups or plain toast.  Miso, chicken noodle soup, and veggie soups can actually be healing during illness.

Same goes for drinking, it is paramount to the health of you and your baby that you continue to consume an adequate amount of fluids—your baby needs amniotic fluid and your kidneys need this nourishment.  In fact, your body may actually begin contractions under the stress of dehydration.  Aim for a full glass of water, tea or broth every 1-2 hours, more often if you have a fever.

 Herbal and Dietary Treatment of Illness in Pregnancy

  • Vitamin C: Take 250 mg every 2 hours, not to exceed 2,000 mg in the first trimester and 4,000 daily in the second and third.  Don’t take Vitamin C at these levels for longer than 5 days.
  • Echinacea: This herb, safe in pregnancy, boosts the body’s immune system very effectively, especially if taken at the first sign of illness.  You can purchase Echinacea tinctures at the co-op, natural health food store, and Whole Foods.  Take one drop for every 4 pounds of body weight (140 pounds / 4 pounds = 35 drops, for example) you can repeat this every 4 hours or more often for acute illness.
  • Garlic, lemon, ginger, green onions:  all of these foods can be consumed to boost the immune system during illness.  Garlic is a bactericide, good for treating many kinds of ailments.  Ginger tea is a great natural treatment of illness.
  • Kudzu Root: Sold in chunks or as a powder, this starchy root is good for reducing fever, relaxing the muscles, taming the tummy, and soothing inflamed nasal, throat, and lung tissues. You can make Kudzu root tea by boiling a cup of apple or pear juice, adding 1 teaspoon of root powder which has been diluted in 2 tablespoons of cold water.  You can add cinnamon or ginger for warmth.

 Natural Cold Tonics

Full of immune boosting goodness, these mixed can be sipped safely at the first sign of illness:

“Terrible Tonic”

  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of purified water

Add all ingredients to a mason jar, shake and take 3 tablespoons 6 times a day.

Cold and Flu tea

In a pan, gently boil one quart of water, adding:

  • 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 2-3 chopped green onions
  • 1-2” of minced/grated/sliced fresh ginger

Let gently boil for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and add:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of honey, or to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice, or to taste
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper

 Over the Counter Medications Considered Safe in Pregnancy

When all else fails, over the counter medications may be desired.  As with herbs, many over the counter medications are not considered safe during pregnancy.  Talk with your provider about what over-the-counter medications are best for your situation.