It is bad enough being sick when you’re not pregnant, but when illnesses such as colds, the flu, virus’ and sometimes food poisoning occur during pregnancy, they can make you feel absolutely miserable. It’s rare for a woman to go through 9 months of pregnancy without coming down with some type of illness at least once.
Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system is affected during pregnancy, which can make you more vulnerable to infections, such as coughs, colds and the flu, as well as make your symptoms persist longer than usual. You can boost your immune system by eating a healthy well-balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which contain certain antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin C. These help to fight infections and may help keep you from getting sick in the first place. Also, make sure you are taking your prenatal vitamins daily. Since prevention is so important, staying away from people who are sick may be your best bet for staying well.
To help alleviate some of the discomforts that can accompany colds or the flu, drink plenty of fluids to maintain your nutritional intake (most important if you have diarrhea or are vomiting). Water, chicken broth, fresh juice, warm tea, jello, and even popsicles are all good options. Freshly squeezed juice is better than juice from concentrate, since it contains more vitamins, minerals and enzymes, as well as less sugar. Herbal teas may be helpful, especially ginger, Echinacea and peppermint. It is best to speak with your doctor or midwife before taking any herbs, because some may be harmful during pregnancy. A drink made up of hot water, honey and lemon may soothe a sore throat, as well as gargling with a warm salt water solution.
If your nasal passages are dry, help moisten them by using a steam vaporizer or a humidifier. You can have one going in your bedroom, close to your face when you sleep at night. During the day, you can make a tent out of a towel draped over your head and stay underneath it for 15 minutes, three or four times a day. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can also use a pan of steaming water. Saline drops or saline nasal sprays (found at most drugstores) can help, if you are bothered by nasal stuffiness. A warm shower may be an even better way to clear mucus out, if you are congested (besides being relaxing!).
Sleep helps the body to heal itself. Rest as much as possible when you’re coming down with the flu or a cold. If you have trouble with nasal symptoms, sleep in a recliner or elevate your head with lots of pillows, so you are in a semi-upright position. Also, you might try rubbing a mentholated product on your chest, following the directions on the package carefully.
Dealing with Fevers
If you have a fever, you should carefully monitor your temperature by taking it twice a day and if it rises to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, contact your doctor or midwife. You should also call, if you begin to cough up green or yellow mucus, experience a severe sore throat, if your symptoms last for more than a week or if you’re worried about certain symptoms that seem unusual.
The good news is that while a cold can make you quite miserable, it poses no special risks during pregnancy. The flu, however, can be more serious in pregnant women and may sometimes lead to pneumonia. Since flu shots are safe for both you and baby, it’s wise to get one during flu season if you’re past the first trimester. Sometimes medications are necessary, but you should never take over-the-counter cough or cold remedies without checking with your doctor or midwife beforehand, since some contain substances that may be harmful in pregnancy, including alcohol.