Getting Sick While Pregnant

Getting sick is never fun, but getting sick while pregnant is even worse. It is common for the immune system to weaken while you are pregnant, which makes you more susceptible to getting sick. Obviously, you want to do everything possible to avoid catching something, but don’t be surprised if you do get sick while you are pregnant.

How to Avoid Getting Sick While Pregnant

The best way to avoid getting sick while you are pregnant is to take steps to make sure you are healthy. The more you invest in your health, the more likely you will be able to avoid getting sick or speed up your recovery if you do get sick. A healthy body starts with eating healthy. The vitamins and nutrients that you get from a nutritious meal go directly to building up and supporting your immune system. Taking prenatal vitamins and probiotics can further enhance this.

Probiotics occur naturally in foods like yogurt. Eating yogurt and taking probiotic supplements both support your immune system making it easier for your body to fight off bugs. Getting lots of rest is also vital for a healthy body. Try to go bed in a timely fashion, and take naps as necessary. Melatonin, a common sleep aid, is not proven safe during pregnancy and should be avoided at this time. Exercise is also beneficial for your body’s health, and it often makes it easier to get a good night’s sleep.

One of the best things you can do to avoid getting sick while pregnant is washing your hands regularly. Some of the most common places that you can pick up germs are on doors, which are touched regularly by others going in and out. When you get to the office or back home, make a habit of washing your hands. Using anti-bacterial wipes on grocery baskets or other commonly touched items is another way to protect yourself from picking up germs that may lead to sickness.

How to Get Well If You are Sick While Pregnant

If you are sick while pregnant, there are some steps you can take to get well.
Here are some initial things you should try:

  • Rest – As noted above, a rested body helps your immune system work better. A healthy immune system can help shorten your sick period.
  • Stay Hydrated – Fluids are also essential to a healthy body. Fluids also help wash out your system.
  • Take Your Vitamins – Vitamins and supplements contain nutrients that contribute towards a healthy body and a healthy immune system.

The above steps are not magic pills to make your cold go away. However, collectively they give your body the best fighting chance to end the sickness.
There are also some natural steps you can take to alleviate or minimize troublesome symptoms:

  • Reduce Congestion – Place a humidifier in your room, keep your head elevated on your pillow while resting, or use nasal strips.
  • Alleviate Your Sore Throat – Suck on ice chips, drink warm tea, or gargle with warm saltwater.

You can also talk to the pharmacist or your healthcare provider for over-the-counter (OTC) medication you can take to manage your symptoms if they progress. It is imperative that you read the labels or consult your healthcare team because there are many medications you normally would use to treat the symptoms of your cold that are not safe to take during pregnancy.
The following is a list of medications that pose little risk to your baby during pregnancy; however, it is best to consult with your doctor before taking any medications to relieve your symptoms.

  • Acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) can be used to alleviate fevers, headaches, and body aches.  This should be used sparingly and it is best to consult your obstetrician.
  • Anesthetic sore throat lozenges can ease the pain in your throat.
  • Codeine and dextromethorphan can often be used as cough suppressants.

When to See Your Doctor if You are Sick While Pregnant

Your healthcare provider is there to help you have the safest and healthiest pregnancy possible. Do not hesitate to contact them with questions if you are sick while pregnant. It is essential to contact your provider if your symptoms cause you to miss meals, lose sleep, or if there is no improvement after a couple of days.

It is also important to consult your physician if you develop a fever that is 102° Fahrenheit or greater. Lastly, if you begin to cough up discolored mucus or if your cough is accompanied by chest pain and/or wheezing, make sure to call your doctor. They may need to prescribe an antibiotic to kill the infection.

Want to Know More?

Compiled using information from the following sources:

1. Yankowitz, Jerome. (2008).  Drugs in Pregnancy in Gibbs, Ronald S., Karlan, Beth Y., & Haney, Arthur F., & Nygaard, Ingrid E. (Eds.), Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th edition (126).  Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

2. The First Trimester: First 12 weeks in Johnson, Robert V. (Ed.), Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year (136).  New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

3. Common concerns and questions of pregnancy in Harms, Roger W. (Ed.), Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (432-3).  New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.