In the winter it’s not always easy to avoid getting a cold or a bout of flu. If you are still commuting when you are pregnant, you will probably be even more wary of other people’s coughs and sneezes than you usually are, but just being out and about in unpredictable weather can also bring on a rundown state that ends up in a cough or cold.
There’s no need to call the doctor for every cold and snuffle, although you do need to take care that any medications you take are safe for use in pregnancy (you can check with your midwife, doctor or the pharmacist). There are times, however, when it is important that you do call your doctor and seek prompt medical attention, such as the following.
Bad chest infections
As we’ve said, coughs and colds are just as common during pregnancy as when you are not pregnant and are usually no cause for concern. Bouts of coughing may be uncomfortable but be assured that your baby is well protected in the womb and won’t be affected by your racking cough. However, if you are running a fever then you will need to take medications to bring your temperature down as studies have shown a link between fever in the first trimester and the development of certain birth defects.
Paracetemol should lower the fever, but it’s always worth calling your doctor. If have a severe infection or your symptoms aren’t clearing up after a couple of weeks then do talk to your doctor. If the doctor finds that you have a bacterial infection then you will probably need a course of antibiotics to clear it up. Do make sure that the doctor treating you knows that you are pregnant, but don’t worry about your prescription, there are numerous kinds of antibiotics that are safe for use in pregnancy.
Allowing a possible infection to go unchecked is much more dangerous for your baby.
Making sure a minor cold doesn’t get worse
If you are usually the kind of person who uses a hot flu remedy drink when you feel a cold coming on, make sure you tell the pharmacist that you are pregnant before stocking up. (If in doubt about someting you already have in the bathroom cabinet, check on these with your pharmacist, midwife team or GP, too.)
Instead of reaching for the medicines, or even herbal remedies which can also be dangerous in pregnancy, try a few of the following:
Being pregnant you have the perfect excuse not to push your body when you feel illness coming on. Get some extra bed rest or build some extra sofa-time into your day. If you are working and feel you cannot take the day off (especially if you have not yet told your company you are pregnant), make sure you take work easy, and if you feel you’re getting worse accept that you are going to have to take some sick leave now rather than getting much more ill and spending even more time off. In the evenings, don’t feel you’re being a wimp by going to bed an hour or so earlier than usual, even if you actually just go to bed with a book and read.
Often when we are ill we go off our food, but the extra nutirional demands of pregnancy will mean you feel even more wobbly if you don’t eat. Try to eat well (even if you can’t taste the food!) even if you don’t have the appetite to eat a great deal at one sitting. Keep up your vitamin C intake, but also make sure you don’t overdo it (check with a pharmacist or your doctor if you plan to take vitamin C in supplement form). And make sure you keep up your fluids as this will help your system operate and minimise the problem of fluey headaches.
If you are feeling too hot, try to bring your temperature down naturally with soothing cold compresses or lighter clothes, rather than fever-reducing medication. If your temperature continues to stay high or you find your body then goes to shivery extremes, see your GP.
Make sure you can breathe easily Unless it’s really freezing, try to get some fresh air, but also when you are in bed or on the sofa, prop yourself up a bit (making sure your neck is supported and not too awkwardly positioned) so you can breathe better during sleep.
If you are concerned about whether or not you should be taking medicine or getting treatment, it is safer to speak to someone rather than worrying that you are ‘fussing’. If you can’t get hold of your GP’s surgery or your midwife team, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
And remember, the flu jab is safe to take in pregnancy, but do make sure your nurse or GP knows you are pregnant at the time you get the vaccination.