When you become pregnant, everything that happens to you can affect not just your body, but that of your unborn child. This realization can make dealing with illness more complicated. In the past, if you got a cold or became sick with the flu, you may have taken an over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant. But now you might wonder whether it’s safe. Although medications can relieve your symptoms, you don’t want the drug causing problems for the baby.
Is it cold or flu?
A cold and the flu share many symptoms, such as a cough and runny nose. However, there are a few differences that will allow you to tell them apart. If your symptoms are generally mild, then you likely have a cold. Also, chills and fatigue are more commonly associated with the flu.
Things you can do to reduce your risk
It’s no revelation that when you’re pregnant your body experiences changes. But one of those changes is that you have a weaker immune system. A weaker immune system helps stop the woman’s body from rejecting the unborn baby. However, it also leaves expecting moms more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections.
Pregnant women are also more likely than nonpregnant women their age to have flu complications. These complications may include pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus infections. Getting a flu vaccination reduces the risk of infection and complications. Getting a flu vaccination helps protect pregnant women and their babies for up to six months after birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, it’s important for pregnant women to be up-to-date on their vaccination schedule.
Others things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick include:
- washing your hands often
- getting enough sleep
- eating a healthy diet
- avoiding close contact with sick family or friends
- exercising regularly
- reducing stress
When should I call my doctor?
Although most colds do not cause problems for an unborn child, the flu should be taken more seriously. Flu complications increase the risk of premature delivery and birth defects. Get immediate medical help if you experience the following symptoms:
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain or pressure
- vaginal bleeding
- severe vomiting
- high fever that isn’t reduced by acetaminophen
- decreased fetal movement
The CDC recommends that pregnant women with flu-like symptoms be treated immediately with antiviral medications. As always, if you have any questions, call your doctor’s office.