When you’re pregnant, your body is going through a lot of changes and hormonal swings. There are plenty of normal, everyday symptoms and side effects that many women experience during pregnancy. But when it comes to running a fever, you should always be vigilant about getting the right medical attention.
During pregnancy it’s normal to feel a little warm at times. Many expectant moms experience occasional hot flashes and often feel more flushed than usual. It’s important to be able to distinguish the difference between just feeling a little overheated and running a fever; the latter can be an indication of something that could be potentially harmful for your growing baby.
What Constitutes a Fever in Pregnant Women?
Just like when you run a fever in any other circumstances, the severity of your fever will increase as body temperature rises. Any temperature 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and above is considered a fever. Low grade fevers shouldn’t be anything too serious to worry about, but stay vigilant and monitor any other possible symptoms as they occur.
If you reach a temperature of 101 degrees, you should visit your doctor immediately.
A fever during pregnancy is not normal and should not be ignored. But it’s also important to remain calm. Talk to your doctor and see if there are any over the counter medications like acetaminophen to help naturally lower your fever.
How Fever Can Affect Your Pregnancy
In most cases, a fever won’t have an adverse effect on your pregnancy and the health of your growing baby. As stated earlier, low grade fevers under 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should not cause too much distress and can be managed with over the counter medications.
You should still contact your doctor and keep a steady eye on the thermometer to ensure the status of your condition doesn’t change.
If a fever gets higher, the situation can get more serious. Untreated high-grade fevers by themselves are not the culprit of possible complications during pregnancy. Instead, the fever is usually indicative of some underlying condition, infection, or ailment that needs to be diagnosed and treated.
There are studies that link multiple untreated high fevers in pregnant women with an increased risk of autism in babies. However, there’s not enough research to back a definitive conclusion. And it’s unlikely that this particular situation should arise since most women suffering from a high fever seek treatment.
Common Causes of Fever
Just like anyone else who isn’t expecting, a fever can happen at anytime during your pregnancy. In fact, it should be comforting to know that it’s fairly common with about one third of pregnant women getting a fever at some point during pregnancy.
So since it’s not anything with the pregnancy itself that’s causing a fever, what are some of the usual suspects? Common causes of a fever during pregnancy include:
- Influenza (the flu)
- Common cold
- Stomach flu
- Kidney infection
- Food poisoning
Some of the above conditions can be serious during pregnancy. A stomach flu or food poisoning can be particularly critical. Since symptoms usually include vomiting and diarrhea which leads to the loss of electrolytes and general dehydration, experiencing either in severity during pregnancy can put you and your baby at risk.
Additionally, severe kidney infections can be life threatening on their own which is why it’s so important to stay in touch with your doctor if you’re experiencing a fever during pregnancy.
Other Symptoms to Monitor that may Accompany Fever
While communicating with your doctor, be mindful of any other possible symptoms. These symptoms can be indicative of an underlying issue or infection and can make any diagnosis and treatment plans easier to execute. Tell your doctor about any symptoms accompanying a fever, including:
- Back pain
- Shortness of breath
- Stiff neck
- Abdominal pain
What to Do If You Have a Fever
Before you speak to or head into an appointment with your doctor, taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help you manage and reduce your fever on your own. Always avoid ibuprofen and aspirin when you’re pregnant, unless your doctor recommends them.
A luke warm shower or bath may also help cool your body down and provide some relief to your fever. Don’t try to “sweat it out,” which is a common misconception that doesn’t aid fever. Keep clothing and any blankets light.
You should also stay vigilant with your intake of water and other cold beverages to ensure you stay hydrated, cool and comfortable. Above all else, rest and contact your doctor. It never hurts to make a phone call.
During pregnancy, your immune system is suppressed in order to protect your fetus. So it’s normal to be more at-risk for infections than those who are not expecting. But that doesn’t mean preventative measures aren’t important.
The best offense is a good defense. You can avoid contracting a viral infection like the common cold or the flu simply by washing your hands often and thoroughly. If you know someone at home or work is sick, try to avoid them.
Quarantine a sick family member to one area of the house and work from home or a remote location if possible if you are sick. Also, get the annual flu vaccine. This is very in important in pregnancy.
Additionally, avoid eating uncooked fish, raw meat, and unpasteurized cheese when pregnant to avoid exposure to certain food-borne bacteria which can also lead to a high fever.
When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention
As stated throughout this article, you should notify your doctor any time you have a fever during pregnancy. However, the severity changes based on the degree, any additional symptoms, and where you are in your pregnancy.
Seek treatment right away for any high-grade fevers, especially if you are in your first trimester and your fever has reached temperatures of 102 degrees or higher. But any high-grade fever and serious infection can cause problems during pregnancy if left untreated.
Preventing fevers and treating the cause of them as quickly as possible when they do occur are vital to the health of you and your developing baby.
Every woman is different and will have a pregnancy experience that is individualized. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the best way to be prepared for what may come is to have regular appointments and discussions with your doctor to better understand what you may be going through.
For a clearer picture of your individual health and pregnancy plan, maintaining good prenatal care and regular communication with your doctor is imperative. Contact your Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville OB/GYN today and schedule a consultation.