If You Get Sick While Pregnant: 16 Helpful Tips

When you’re pregnant, your body can’t fight it off illnesses like it normally does, making you more vulnerable to a cold, fever, stuffy nose, sore throat, flu or stomach bug. On top of being pregnant! That can get rough. To help pregnant moms feel better while sick, we recommend this informative blog by Dennis McGroary, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN with our Obstetrics/Gynecology group (excerpted below).

Our 16 top tips for feeling better if you do get sick while pregnant

Dennis McGroary, MD, FACOG

Here are some things you can do to help you feel better faster, according to the American Pregnancy Association:

  1. Rest. It may be hard, but really try.
  2. Drink plenty of water or other clear, decaffeinated liquids such as teas and broths.
  3. Drink orange juice or other juices with vitamin C (tangerines, grapefruit, strawberries, melon, kiwi, mango, tomatoes, bell peppers, papaya, broccoli, red cabbage and spinach).
  4. Take your prenatal vitamin, which contains vitamin C to boost your immune system and zinc to help fight off germs. And be sure to eat foods rich in nutrients.
  5. Eat fresh garlic, known to have virus-fighting compounds.
  6. Use a warm mist humidifier to keep the air around you moist.
  7. Try saltwater gargles to relieve sore throat pain.
  8. Use saline sprays to moisten your nasal passages.
  9. For a fever, body aches or headaches, it’s generally considered safe to take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Products containing aspirin or ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) are not recommended because they can interfere with your baby’s development in the early months and create problems during labor later on.
  10. Always check with your doctor before taking any medication (prescription, over the counter or homeopathic).
  11. Stay active. If you’re not running a fever or coughing and you feel up to it, light to moderate pregnancy-safe exercise may actually help you feel better faster.
  12. Keep eating. A healthy diet can help with cold symptoms.
  13. Take more zinc which may boost the immune system
  14. Elevate your head with pillows. Nasal strips may help too.
  15. Saltwater gargles. Gargling with warm salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water) can ease a scratchy or sore throat, wash away post nasal drip and help control a cough.
  16. Honey to suppress a dry cough.

IMPORTANT: When to see a doctor

According to whattoexpect.com, you should contact your doctor if:

  • You have a fever over 100 °F
  • Your cold is severe enough to interfere with eating or sleeping
  • You’re coughing up greenish or yellowish mucus
  • You have a cough with chest pain or wheezing
  • Your sinuses are throbbing
  • If symptoms last more than 10-14 days, it’s possible that your cold has progressed to a secondary infection and you may need a prescription medication

Medicines you can take while pregnant

Always double-check with your doctor before taking any medications which might contain ingredients that aren’t safe during pregnancy. The following are generally considered safe to take:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Cough medications. Expectorants (Mucinex), cough suppressants (Robitussin or Vicks44), vapor rubs (Vicks) and most cough drops.
  • Some nasal sprays. Most steroid-containing nasal sprays are fine to use during pregnancy but check with your doctor about brands and dosing.
  • Some antihistamines. Benadryl and Claritin are usually deemed safe but be sure to check with your practitioner before taking them (some doctors advise staying away from them in the first trimester).

Medicines you should NOT take while pregnant

Some medications for cold symptoms should not be taken by pregnant women because they could complicate the pregnancy and cause harm to the unborn baby, including:

  • Some pain relievers and fever reducers. Studies suggest an association between analgesics such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) and pregnancy complications, including low birth weight and preterm delivery.
  • Most decongestants. Steer clear of decongestants such as Claritin-D, Sudafed or DayQuil.
  • Some nasal sprays. Avoid non-steroidal nasal decongestant sprays containing ozymetazoline (Afrin).
  • Alternative or homeopathic remedies. Don’t take Echinacea, supplemental vitamins (esp. zinc supplements) or other over-the-counter herbal remedies without medical approval.

Helpful articles we recommend:

Questions about sickness during your pregnancy? Come see us.

If you’d like more information about what to do if you get sick while pregnant, or if you have questions related to any aspect of your pregnancy, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health OB/GYNs. Our #1 goal is for you to have a safe pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

To read Dr. McGroary’s blog in full, click here.

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