Many pregnant women fear getting a fever will impact the health of their growing baby. Results of a study of 78,000 women revealed there were no statistically significant findings that linked fevers with birth defects or health issues. However, underlying causes of the fever may affect the health of your fetus.
Why You May Have a Fever
Fevers can come up at any point during your pregnancy and can possibly impact your growing baby. You may have a fever because of an underlying illness or infection. During pregnancy, women's immune system is typically weakened, leaving them more at risk for contracting an illness, infection, or virus.
You Have Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an infection that impacts your lungs. Symptoms include coughing, fever, chills, fatigue, and chest pain. Mothers who have pneumonia during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to preterm babies and babies with low birth weight.
You Have the Flu
Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, body aches, and cough. Studies suggest that pregnant women exposed to the flu within the gestational period of zero to eight weeks may notice slight psychomotor developmental delays in their children around six months.
You Have a Urinary Tract Infection
You may have a UTI if it is painful to urinate, you have a fever, chills, and possibly blood in your urine. Without treatment, UTI's can lead to kidney infections which are not only painful, but can impact the health of your fetus. Mother's who have untreated kidney infections are more likely to give birth preterm and have babies with low birth weight.
You Have a Virus
A virus during pregnancy is often accompanied by a fever. Many viruses are considered benign, but your doctor will pay extra close attention to the Herpes Simplex virus as it can be transmitted to your baby during delivery and can cause uterine growth issues, spontaneous abortions, and preterm labor. About one in six people in the United States have genital herpes and about 25 percent of children in the United States under the age of seven test positive for the Herpes Simplex Virus type one. This highlights the importance of seeing your doctor regularly for check ups prior to becoming pregnant, as well as throughout your pregnancy.
When a Fever Might Indicate a Serious Problem
In general, fevers themselves do not cause harm to the unborn baby, but they can be an indication of a more dangerous ailment that can negatively impact the baby's health. Your doctor may not necessarily treat your fever. They may monitor your temperature and choose to treat the underlying issue as it is safer to treat the issue with medication than allow the virus or bacteria to impact the baby. Keep in mind all of the following viruses and bacterial infections have treatment options. Contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing or believe you may have a diagnosis of:
- Bacterial Vaginosis: This vaginal infection can lead to low birth weight and preterm labor.
- Chlamydia: This sexually transmitted infection can lead to preterm labor, and can cause eye infections and pneumonia when the child is born.
- Gonorrhea: This sexually transmitted infection can lead to infant blindness, low birth weight, and miscarriage.
- Genital Herpes: The Herpes Simplex virus can lead to organ and brain damage, blindness, spontaneous abortion, and stillbirth.
- Zika: This virus can lead to eye and brain problems in the infant, as well as spontaneous abortion.
- Listeria: This infection is brought on by eating food that has been contaminated. It can lead to infant death, preterm birth, and stillbirth.
- Toxoplasmosis: This parasitic disease can cause blindness and intellectual delays.
- Syphilis: This can lead to infant death, and developmental issues in the brain, teeth, heart and skin.
Safely Treating Your Fever
When pregnant, it is always a good idea to give your doctor a call if you aren't feeling well. Fevers can indicate an underlying issue that could potentially impact your growing child, and it's important to seek out help as soon as possible. Call your doctor or seek medical attention immediately if you feel faint, confused, experience a seizure, lose consciousness, experience vaginal bleeding, and have trouble breathing. Depending on what the underlying issue is, your doctor may prescribe medication or suggest over-the-counter remedies to help with your symptoms. Do not take over-the-counter or herbal medication without first talking to your doctor. You can also take care of yourself by:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Getting lots of rest
- Eating healthy foods
- Using a warm or cold compress to manage your chills and heat flashes
- Taking a soothing warm bath or shower
- Avoiding strenuous tasks and vigorous exercise
- Limiting your contact with others
- Washing your hands often
- Sanitizing your home and changing your bed linens when your symptoms begin to subside to avoid reinfection
Take Care of Yourself
When you're pregnant, it is important to take extra good care of yourself. If you have a fever, be sure to call your doctor right away so they can help you manage your discomfort and avoid potential complications.