Having a fever during pregnancy can be frightening because your first thought is almost always whether something is wrong with the baby. However, having a fever during pregnancy is more common than you think, and there can be a number of different causes, as well as healthy treatment options that you can explore.
What is Fever during Pregnancy?
A fever, by definition, is the body’s way of showing that the immune system is working to defend the body against an infection. The same thing is true of a fever during pregnancy since the body’s immune system is working harder to keep both you and your baby safe. This extra stress can make you more susceptible to virus and infections that lead to a fever. Obviously, taking precautions to protect your immune system during pregnancy is highly recommended.
While a mild, short-lived fever doesn’t pose a major threat to your baby, extended or severe fevers may be an indication of a more serious problem that relates to your pregnancy. Particularly early in the first trimester, a high fever can be dangerous to the normal development and health of a fetus. More specifically, a fever of over 103 degrees Fahrenheit can cause various birth defects.
In the third trimester, however, once the fetus has developed and is basically just gaining weight, a high fever poses less of a risk to the baby. By definition, any oral measurement over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or rectal measurement over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, is considered a fever.
Causes of Fever during Pregnancy
Some of the primary causes of fever during pregnancy include urinary tract infections, colds, flu, gastrointestinal infections, and listeria, among others.
Urinary Tract Infection – The hormones in your body can weaken the immune defense of your urinary tract, resulting in fever, chills, and pelvic pain. This is a common problem during pregnancy and should be treated to prevent the infection from spreading to your bladder or kidneys, which can cause more problems.
Cold – The common cold is easy to catch, but also easy to treat, despite it generating a short and worrying period of fever for pregnant women.
Flu – In most cases, influenza feels like a bad cold, but it might be necessary to take medication to speed the healing process. Speak with your doctor to ensure you are taking the right type of flu medication.
Gastrointestinal Issues – GI tract infections can result in vomiting and diarrhea, as well as fever and dehydration, due to the loss of fluids by the body. These infections can seriously affect your baby’s nutrient intake and may cause a preterm birth if left untreated.
Effects of Fever during Pregnancy
There are a number of effects that a high, sustained fever can have on your pregnancy, such as birth defects, premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage, among others.
Premature Birth – With symptoms of dehydration or nutrient deficiencies, the body may signal the baby’s lack of development with premature or preterm birth, which comes along with many risks to the infant.
Low-birth Weight – Fever can deny the fetus the nutrients it needs to grow normally, so low birth weight is always a risk.
Miscarriage – Some fevers can seriously increase your risk of miscarriage, particularly if they occur during the first trimester.
Birth Defects – The risk of spina bifida, cleft palate, cleft lip and heart defects are all higher if you have a sustained high fever during pregnancy.
Treatments of Fever during Pregnancy
If you are experiencing a fever during pregnancy, there are plenty of treatments, including drinking more water, taking prescribed medications, using a cold compress, taking a lukewarm bath, resting and dressing more appropriately.
Ensure that you are getting enough water on a daily basis, as this can reduce fever symptoms.
Applying a cold washcloth to the neck, face or head, or taking a lukewarm bath to lower overall body temperature, can quickly relieve feverish symptoms.
Antibiotics or other medication to treat certain infections (prescribed by your doctor) can help remedy your fever quickly.
If your body is feeling overworked or overwhelmed, it will be difficult to fight infection and lower that fever. If your temperature starts to rise, get off your feet, relax, and let your body defend itself!
Word of Caution: It is critical that you take a fever during your pregnancy seriously. Any fever that rises above 101 degrees should warrant a visit to the doctor, as extended periods of fever can increase your risk of autism or possible infection of the fetus. If home remedies for any fevers don’t result in signs of improvement within 24 hours, go to see a doctor as soon as possible.