If You Get Sick While Pregnant

The last thing you need is to get sick while you’re expecting, but yes, it happens. Here’s how to cope with a cold, flu, or other minor illnesses during pregnancy.

Allergies

Allergies are very common in pregnancy, affecting approximately 25% of all expectant mothers — sometimes women with no known prior allergies. To help you get through the sneezing, sniffling and watery eyes, try these tips:

  • Stay away from people who smoke (also, secondhand smoke is bad for you and especially your baby).
  • Avoid household chemicals like paint thinner.
  • If you’re allergic to pollen: try to stay inside with filtered air-conditioned air. If you do go outdoors, wash your hands and face when you come indoors.
  • If you’re allergic to dust: use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or a wet mop to avoid stirring up dust.
  • Stay away from foods you’re allergic to.
  • If you’re allergic to pets: If you become allergic to your own pet, try to make at least one room in your home pet-free.
  • Check with your doctor about taking medications to treat allergies.

Colds and flu

Your immune system operates at a low level when you’re pregnant; this is actually good, since it keeps your body from fighting off the baby (a “foreigner” to your body). The down side, though, is that your body can’t fight off colds or flu as well as it normally does, making you vulnerable to a stuffy or runny nose, cough or sore throat. Try these remedies:

  • Get plenty of rest (yeah right, but do try)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Drink lots of clear, decaffeinated liquids, such as teas and broths
  • Drink orange juice or other juices with vitamin C
  • Take your prenatal vitamin, which contains vitamin C to boost your immune system and zinc to help fight off germs. And be sure to eat foods rich in nutrients.
  • Eat fresh garlic, known to have virus-fighting compounds.
  • Use a warm mist humidifier to keep the air around you moist.
  • Try saltwater gargles to relieve sore throat pain.
  • Use saline sprays to moisten your nasal passages (but not medicated sprays).
  • If you’re running a fever or suffering from body aches or headaches, it’s generally considered safe to take products containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol. Products containing aspirin or ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (such as Aleve) are not recommended to take while pregnant because they can interfere with your baby’s development in the early months and create problems during labor later on.
  • Always check with your doctor before taking any medication (prescription, over the counter, or homeopathic).
  • You can also try to bring down a low-grade fever by taking a tepid bath or shower, drinking cool beverages, and keeping clothes and covers light. Do not take echinacea, mega-doses of vitamins or homeopathic remedies unless you discuss it with your doctor.
  • Remember that being pregnant puts you at greater risk for more serious complications, like pneumonia. If you’re suffering from flu symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor.

Stomach bugs

Stomach bugs are most often caused by viruses, though bacteria can sometimes be the culprit. They can be hard to differentiate from morning sickness, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy. If your nausea and vomiting are accompanied by cramps, fever or diarrhea, you may be dealing with a stomach bug. Or, you may have food poisoning, whose symptoms are the same as a stomach bug.

What to do:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you’re losing them through vomiting or diarrhea; they’re much more important in the short term than solids.
  • If you’re not urinating frequently enough, or your urine is dark (it should be straw-colored), you’re in danger of becoming dehydrated. In this case, you need to force yourself to drink fluids: water, diluted juice (white grape is easiest on the tummy), clear broth, weak decaffeinated tea or hot water with lemon.
  • Follow your stomach’s lead when it comes to adding solids and choose bland, simple and fat-free foods (white rice or unbuttered toast, cream of rice cereal, applesauce, bananas).
  • Go for the ginger: in tea, flat ginger ale or ginger candies, nothing settles a funny tummy like ginger.
  • If you can’t keep anything down, talk to your doctor. Dehydration is especially problematic when you need to drink enough water for two.
  • Antacids like Tums and Maalox are generally considered safe to take during pregnancy, as are gas relievers like Gas-X and Mylicon.
  • As always, check with your doctor before taking anything.