Fever in Pregnancy: Causes, Effects, and Treatments
Fever is a common medical sign in every human. It results when the body’s temperature rises above the normal range (36-37 Centigrade or 98-100 Fahrenheit). However, what you need to know is that fever is not a disease in itself; rather, it is a warning sign that something out of ordinary is going on inside your body, and to combat that anomaly, the body’s immune system has begun its operation leading to a rise in the body’s normal temperature. Quite simple, right?
However, matters cross the boundary of “simple” when you are a pregnant mother. In that scenario, fever is not something to be taken lightly. Fever during pregnancy is always a red flag not because it is uncommon, but because it may directly affect your unborn child. Pregnancy and fever are antithetical concepts; both have quite a hostile relationship: one should not be there when the other is around. During pregnancy, the mother’s immune system has to work extra hard since it has to protect both the mother and the unborn child. This makes the mother more vulnerable to viral infections and diseases which may adversely affect the fetus.
Fever is not always dangerous: it may be the result of minor disorders like the common cold. However, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor since it can be an indication of something grave. Do not wait for it to get better on its own. Nothing is enough when you are a mom-to-be: do not compromise your baby’s health!
Why is Fever caused during Pregnancy?
A mother’s immune system does not work during pregnancy the same way it does before, so it is highly probable for her to contract diseases during this period. Fever is a clear indication of some infection running in the body and demands immediate treatment. However, before getting any medication, it is good to know what has caused this condition to arise. Fever can be a symptom of any disease, but some common causes of fever during pregnancy are:
1. Common Cold
The common cold, also known simply as cold, is a viral disease of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) which commonly affects the nasal area. However, it may also affect sinuses and larynx. Cold is quite an irritable condition since it includes, coughing, incessant sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, acute headache and a high fever. Although anyone can contract this minor ailment, pregnant mothers are more prone to it owing to a slow working immune system. Fever, in this case, is generally harmless. However, if the infection continues for more than 2 weeks or if you feel the symptoms are getting worse, it may hint at major complications like pneumonia or bronchitis. It is definitely time to see your doctor!
Influenza, like the common cold, is a viral disease and both share common indicators. However, symptoms are a lot severe in this case and last longer than those of common cold. Flu mostly affects people during late fall and winters and causes severe irritability and discomfort especially in the first 3 to 4 days. Pregnant mothers need to be extra careful in this case as there is a higher chance of them getting severely ill because of their suppressed immune systems. It is also necessary for them to consult their doctors so they can get proper medication (including influenza shots) to make sure there is no risk of complications.
It may not feel overly important to you, but drinking enough water according to your body’s needs is quite crucial, more so during pregnancy. In case your body gets severely dehydrated, you may experience chills and fever which can worsen the condition leading to serious complications for your unborn baby including low amniotic fluid, insufficient breast milk production, neural tube defects and even premature birth. You definitely don’t want it, right? Then don’t forget to drink water!
4. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning…. seems like a common enough thing and harmless, too. The only thing is, it’s not that harmless, not when you are a mom-to-be! The condition can be seriously harmful to your unborn baby. Food poisoning is mostly caused by eating contaminated food and is characterized by an upset stomach, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, and dehydration. Generally, food poisoning does not affect the unborn child. However, certain foods (unpasteurized milk, uncooked meat and vegetables, and soft cheese) may cause the risk of Listeriosis—a condition in which the bacterium Listeria enters the mother’s bloodstream—leading to increased risk of uterine infection, miscarriage, stillbirth or untimely birth. Be careful about what you eat!
5. Urinary Tract Infection
UTI is a bacterial infection which mostly affects the urinary bladder and urethra. However, the infection may also extend to the ureters and the kidneys. UTI during pregnancy is mostly caused by the changes the urinary tract undergoes or the growing uterus which may prevent the bladder from getting empty leading to sluggish urine and thus UTI. This infection is not something to be taken lightly. If the infection remains untreated, it may develop into a severe kidney infection which may cause complications like low birth weight and premature labor. If you experience difficulty in passing urine, a burning sensation while urinating, abdominal pain and cramps, and a cloudy and reeking urine, it is time to see the doctor.
Will the Fever Affect my Unborn Baby?
It most probably would! As mentioned earlier, fever may be an indication of a serious infection which needs to be treated immediately. In any case, fever is often accompanied by a headache, muscle aches, sweating, shivering, dehydration, loss of appetite and general weakness, none of which is good for either you or your baby. Generally speaking, a low fever is quite harmless but a high fever can be dangerous for the unborn baby, especially if it occurs during the first and second trimesters.
1. Birth Defects
Fever is quite harmless in itself. But if it’s a symptom of a serious infection…..well, that’s another matter. The condition gets especially dangerous if high fever persists throughout the pregnancy period since it may cause complications including cleft lip, cleft palate, neural tube defects and certain heart imperfections.
2. Premature Birth
If persistent high fever is a symptom of dehydration and nutrient deficiency, it may result in the baby’s poor development and preterm birth, something which carries a lot of risks for the infant.
3. Low Birth Weight
The early development of the fetus is highly dependent on the protein activity of the mother’s body. Unfortunately, this activity is sensitive to temperature changes and is greatly affected by high fever. The entire development process is disturbed leading to a lower supply of essential nutrients to the fetus. In this scenario, the risk of low birth weight is always there.
Disturbance in the protein activity due to a rise in body temperature can also lead to miscarriage, especially if the condition arises during the first trimester. To decrease the risk of complications, consult your doctor on the first signs of a moderate fever.
Fever during Pregnancy: What should I Do?
No matter what you do, just don’t panic! It will make matters worse. Take deep breaths; you’re going to be fine. You are not the only one to experience this. Stay level-head and immediately contact your doctor to set an appointment. Now you’re all set! In the meantime, you can do any of the following:
1. Stay Adequately Hydrated
Fever symptoms can be greatly reduced by ensuring an adequate amount of water intake, particularly when you are also facing vomiting or diarrhea (body fluids are lost in such conditions). The ideal quantity is at least one cup every hour. If you don’t like drinking plain water, you can also take hot broth, decaffeinated tea, and diluted juices.
2. Consume Balanced Diet
Don’t forget to eat Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables since this essential vitamin is a natural healer. Other than this, consume healthy foods which provide several antioxidant vitamins and minerals to help your immune system fight the infection.
3. Take Rest
Get plenty of it. Spend some time on your feet and let your body relax. An overworked body is least likely to fight the disease effectively; give it some room and time to prepare for the ultimate battle!
4. Get Proper Medication
Certain medications, especially Paracetamol, are effective against fever. Similarly, certain antibiotics are also useful pregnancy fever reducers. However, don’t even think about self-medication! Consult your doctor and follow his/her instructions methodically.
A Word of Warning
Fever during pregnancy needs to be taken seriously. Any temperature that rises above 100°F and persists for more than two weeks is dangerous. It is crucial that you consult your doctor at the first sign of even the slightest fever and get a proper diagnosis. A little carelessness on your part can lead to serious consequences for you and your baby. Stay alert!
Let us know what you think on the matter. Happy parenting!