Getting Sick When You're Pregnant

Pregnant woman sitting on bed holding her back in pain
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If you're pregnant, there's a good chance you've noticed that you're sick more often than you were before you got pregnant. This is actually normal and not something to be overly concerned about in most cases. If your symptoms are not typical of common illnesses like colds and other respiratory infections, talk to your healthcare provider to be sure there isn't something more serious happening.

Why Pregnant Women Get More Colds

Women who are pregnant tend to get more colds than their non-pregnant counterparts. This is mostly due to the fact that your immune system is slightly less effective during pregnancy. Your body has to lower its defenses to make sure that your baby isn't rejected. Unfortunately, this allows you to be more susceptible to illnesses when you're pregnant than you would be otherwise.

Don't Take Cold Medications While Pregnant

If you're pregnant and do get a cold, don't take any over-the-counter cold or cough medications without checking with your OB/GYN or health practitioner. Most antihistamines, decongestants, and cough medicines should not be taken during pregnancy unless your doctor has told you to take them. They're usually not tested in pregnant women and may have dangerous side effects for the baby. In most cases, it's fine to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) for minor aches and pains. You should avoid Advil (ibuprofen) and aspirin when you're pregnant unless instructed to take it by your practitioner.

Antibiotics During Pregnancy

Many antibiotics are safe to take during pregnancy, but some are not. If you're not sure, check with your health practitioner. The most important thing to do is to follow the instructions for taking the medicine and finish it all. You should never take leftover antibiotics from a past illness or from someone else.

Cold and Flu Prevention

The advice for avoiding colds and the flu when you're pregnant isn't all that different than when you're not. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and washing your hands frequently is the best ways to minimize your chances of catching a cold or the flu. Most practitioners will also prescribe or recommend a prenatal vitamin for pregnant women to supplement your normal diet. If you're a smoker, you should quit. It will boost your immune system and be better for your baby.

Flu shots are also very important for pregnant women. When you're pregnant, you're at high risk for complications from the flu, which can affect both you and your unborn baby. Getting a flu shot during pregnancy can protect you from the flu and can protect your child for up to six months after he or she is born.

What to Do If You Get a Cold or the Flu

It's not possible to avoid colds and the flu completely because they're so common. If you do come down with one of these illnesses, here are some tips to help:

  • Get extra rest.
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids. This is even more important when you're pregnant.
  • Try saline nasal sprays or steam inhalation for congestion.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink hot water or tea with honey and lemon, gargle salt water, or suck on ice chips to help soothe a sore or irritated throat.
  • Notify your healthcare provider if your symptoms seem especially severe or if they last for more than a week. This could mean that you've developed a secondary infection.
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