Fever During Pregnancy

Fever is a defense mechanism of the body against an injury or invasion of infective agents like bacteria and viruses. A fever during pregnancy may harm your fetus, it's vital to find out the correct causes and proper treatments. Mild fever can be cured by home remedies. However, if the fever persists, it could be a cause of something serious and would require medical attention.

What Does Fever During Pregnancy Mean?

During pregnancy, the immune system of a woman is suppressed, making her more prone to infections. The reasons for chills or fever during pregnancy could include:

1. Common Cold

Common cold is not a very serious form of infection (when compared to flu) and it soon goes away within 3-15 days with proper care. It is usually accompanied by symptoms similar to flu, like fever, a runny nose, cough and difficulty in breathing.

How to treat: It can be easily treated by home remedies. Avoiding contact with people suffering from cold, washing your hands frequently and keeping the surfaces in your home and office clean can prevent you from catching a cold.

2. Influenza

Every person has experienced symptoms of flu like fever, chills, nausea, cough and vomiting. However, during pregnancy you need to take special care as you are more susceptible to infection due to your suppressed immunity. Flu generally appears rapidly with more severe symptoms as compared to a common cold.

How to treat: Proper rest accompanied by increased fluid intake along with certain medications greatly help during the onset of flu. A pregnant woman is also recommended to take flu shots to prevent this infection.

3. Gastrointestinal Infection (GI)

An infection by the GIbug can be very serious for a pregnant woman. This infection is usually accompanied with severe dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting, along with fever. All these symptoms can result in a preterm birth if they are not treated on time.

How to treat: It is imperative to balance the electrolyte imbalance in the body by drinking plenty of water and having a diet consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (BRAT). Any sign of blood during vomiting, or inability to retain liquids for more than 24 hours and high fever (fever above 101°F) would require an immediate visit to your doctor.

4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Pregnancy hormones can cause changes in your body, including your urinary tract, making you more susceptible to UTIs. They occur when the bacteria from your vagina or rectum enter your urethra and travel upstream to the bladder. They may result in cloudy urinate, fever, chills, pelvic pain, etc.

How to treat: Many UTIs are restricted to the urinary bladder and can be treated by drinking lots of water and intake of antibiotics. However, if UTIs are left untreated, they could move further upstream to your kidneys and cause damage, leading to severe complications with your pregnancy. Regular testing of urine during the course of your pregnancy can help you monitor for any UTI.

5. Listeria

During your pregnancy, if you have consumed contaminated water or food, it could lead to a form of infection called as listeriosis. This infection is usually accompanied by symptoms like high fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Listeriosis needs immediate medical attention as it could cause severe complications like preterm birth or even miscarriage if left untreated.

How to treat: The best preventive measure would be to steer clear of any foods like unpasteurized milk or mould ripened cheese. A proper course of antibiotics would also help you get rid of this form of infection.

Could Fever During Pregnancy Hurt Your Baby?

Yes, fever during pregnancy can hurt your baby. It is imperative to lower your fever, thus reducing the risks to your baby.

When the temperature of your body increases above 101 °F (rectal or ear temperature) or 100.4 °F (mouth), it constitutes a fever. Fever during pregnancy can be dangerous to the baby. If left untreated, it can lead to an increased risk of cleft palate in your baby, along with many heart and neural tube defects. These can result in a preterm delivery, stillbirth or even cause miscarriages in many cases.

General Suggestions on How to Handle Fever During Pregnancy

If you have fever during pregnancy, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider and many causes for fever are temporary and easily treatable.

  1. Have a warm bath: A lukewarm bath can help reduce fever and is very soothing. It is better to avoid the use of cold water, as it can make you shiver, which, in turn, increases your fever. Also avoid the use of alcohol in water.
  2. Put a wet washcloth on the forehead: Placing a wet washcloth on your forehead during fever can draw out the increased heat from the body, thus reducing fever. Also, lying or sitting under a fan can reduce your fever.
  3. Dress less: During fever, it is better to go easy on the layers of clothing on the body. Overdressing could increase body temperature, which can lead to premature birth. Wearing a single layer of clothing in cotton is especially beneficial. Use a thin sheet or blanket if necessary.
  4. Take proper medication: Consult your midwife or doctor for proper medication to reduce your fever. Some medicines like acetaminophen or paracetomol are considered safe during pregnancy and can reduce fever. However, avoid the use of caffeine, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen during pregnancy. Also the use of homeopathic medications like Echinacea or large amounts of vitamins must be strictly avoided during pregnancy.
  5. Drink plenty of water: During fever, it is very important to increase the water intake and replenish the water lost during fever. Intake of fluids cools the body and keeps it hydrated. Eating broths, soups, beverages that contain high levels of vitamin C (like orange juice or lemon water) and even electrolyte drinks can help the body during fever.
  6. Have good rest: Fever is the first defense mechanism of the body to fight infections. Taking plenty of rest during this period helps the body's immune system. It is important to avoid excessive stress and strenuous activity during fever. Also, fever can result in dizziness. So, it is best to stay in bed to avoid all chances of any physical injury, especially if you are pregnant.
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