Getting Sick When You’re Pregnant

Sick while pregnant

Between morning sickness, swollen feet, and fatigue, pregnancy can often leave you feeling less than 100 percent. Nothing is quite so uncomfortable though as getting sick while you are pregnant. 

Unfortunately, because pregnancy hormones actually weaken the immune system, you are more likely to catch that cold or virus that’s been going around than your non-pregnant peers. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce your chances of getting sick by taking a few simple measures in your daily life. For these suggestions, and to learn ways to cope and when to call your doctor, continue reading.

Prevention: 

With more than 200 viruses out there that can lead to the common cold, it’s no wonder we have trouble avoiding illness. Fortunately, there are simple things you can do while pregnant to protect your health and the health of your baby.

  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich with nutrients and vitamins helps support your weakened immune system to stave off germs and illness.
  • Get plenty of rest: Try to stick to a routine bedtime and waking time every day and nap when you are able. Sleep can often become more challenging when pregnant due to discomfort and frequent urination. Do your best to set yourself up for sleep success! 
  • Exercise regularly: Most women who have normal pregnancies can safely engage in moderate exercise throughout pregnancy. Exercise has been shown to flush bacteria from the lungs and airways that may cause colds and viruses. It also can cause changes to the body’s white blood cells and antibodies positively impacting the immune system.  
  • Wash your hands: Washing your hands regularly can prevent illness and the spread of germs to others. This is particularly important when you are pregnant.
  • Take your prenatal vitamins and probiotics: Vitamins and probiotics are not only good for your baby but for your immune system too.
  • Reduce your stress level: High levels of stress can lead to increased cortisol levels which in turn can negatively impact your immune system. Take care to ensure you are not only physically healthy during your pregnancy but mentally as well.
  • Avoid contact with sick friends and family
  • Get your flu shot: The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get a flu shot. This will not only provide protection for mom but also for baby for up to 6 months post birth.

How to Get Better:

In the unfortunate event that you do catch a cold or the flu while pregnant, there are steps you can take to ease your symptoms that are safe for you and baby.

These include: 

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Staying hydrated
  • Taking your vitamins regularly

For congestion, try: 

  • Using a humidifier
  • Taking a hot shower
  • Breathing hot vapor mist
  • Using saline nasal drops
  • Elevating your pillow when sleeping
  • Menthol salve on your chest or your under nose
  • * Some cough suppressants are thought to be safe for the fetus after the first trimester of pregnancy. However, always check with your doctor or midwife before taking any over the counter medication.*

For a sore throat, try:

  • Throat lozenges
  • Ice chips
  • Hot decaffeinated tea with lemon and honey
  • Gargling with salt water
  • Hot chicken soup
  • For sinus pain, try hot and cold compresses on the sinuses. 
  • For fever and aches and pains, Tylenol is safe to use in moderation during pregnancy after the first trimester. As with all prescription and over the counter medications, check with your doctor or midwife before using.

When to Call Your Care Provider:

While most women will experience at least one harmless cold throughout pregnancy, there are a few health circumstances that warrant a prompt call to your care provider. These are circumstances that may pose a risk to you or the baby and need immediate attention.

  • You have severe vomiting or cannot keep food or water down for an extended period of time.
  • You experience chest pains or pressure.
  • You have a fever of 102 degrees or higher.
  • You are unable to sleep for an extended period of time.
  • You have vaginal bleeding.
  • You have difficulty breathing or are wheezing.
  • You experience confusion or dizziness. 
  • You notice a decrease in fetal movement.
  • Your fever is unresponsive to Tylenol.

Fortunately, for most common colds and viruses your baby is well protected in the uterus and is not affected by your discomfort. It is still important however to take good care of your mental and physical well-being while pregnant so that you can be strong and healthy for your growing baby. With some extra care and a few preventative measures, you can reduce your chances of illness during your pregnancy considerably. For questions about prenatal health and all other pregnancy-related issues, contact Health Foundations to schedule a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our Birthing Center. Here’s to your health!