Fever During Pregnancy

Having a fever is uncomfortable enough for anybody, but when you are pregnant it becomes 100 times worse simply because you have another life to worry about. A life that is dependent on you.

What is fever?

Dr. Robert Atlas, OB/GYN and chair of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says "Typically, there is no difference in what is considered a fever in the pregnant and non-pregnant state". But what is fever? Dr. Randy Fink, an OB/GYN in private practice in Miami, Fla., and a Fellow in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says a fever is "anything greater than 100.4 Fahrenheit"

Risks of fever in pregnant women

According to Dr. Fink, "There is data in both human and animal studies that a high fever during the first 45 to 60 days of gestation the time during which organs are developing can cause birth defects". This means that places where there are extremely high temperatures like saunas and Jacuzzis should be avoided by pregnant women. Though we sweat when we exercise, temperature increases during exercises for pregnant women are not associated to birth defects. Though Dr. Fink advises that pregnant women who do exercise should stay well hydrated and preferably to exercise in a controlled, air-conditioned environment.

Risks when a pregnant woman gets fever are more common mostly in the first trimester. During the final trimester, the common risk is premature birth. Of course you have to know the cause of your fever and if can harm your baby. Dr. Fink says fever caused by viral upper-respiratory infection isn’t likely to have an effect on the baby, but fever due to a kidney infection can cause preterm labor and serious illness to the mother. Chicken pox, on the other hand can be devastating to both the mother and the baby.

Some fevers can be caused by pregnancy, such as an intra-amniotic infection. This is caused by bacteria that got into the he fluid that surrounds the baby and requires that the baby be delivered no matter what the gestational age. A fever from this condition is accompanied by abdominal pain and uterine tenderness, and sometimes contractions.

Treatment options

Fevers that are not caused by any serious illness can be treated by taking medication. Some medications are safe for pregnant women, such as Tylenol. Fink says that most fevers usually go away on their own. Still, having a fever is never a good feeling and high temperatures are not good for the baby. Fink advises that all fevers should be treated.

If you are uncomfortable taking medication for your fever, you can opt for cold compresses under the arms, behind the knees and behind the neck. Other options can be feels compresses; however, Dr. Fink believes they are more effective for injuries rather than fever. Cooling measures such as cool baths, alcohol on the skin and cooling blankets, on the other hand are not always advisable since they could result in rapid loss of body heat which can lead to other problems.

It is also important that your fever do not last more than 24 to 36 hours. Otherwise, you should consult your doctor about it immediately. Dr. Fink lists other warning signs to look for:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Uterine tenderness
  • Contractions
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Rash

Fevers that are linked to rashes are usually mild, viral infections that do not need any kin dof medication or treatment, but still should be reported to your doctor. Dr. Fink stand on antibiotics is that "Just because you have a fever, you do not necessarily need antibiotics. Most prudent clinicians will avoid antibiotics in pregnant women without a confirmed bacterial infection to avoid unnecessarily exposing the fetus to medications."

Dr. Atlas, on the other hand, recommends that you first take your temperature and contact your doctor depending on how high it is. If any of your family members got sick then got better immediately, then it is nothing to worry about, since it may just be common cold. Do not attempt to treat yourself. It could lead to more serious problems. Let your doctors recommend the proper treatment for you. Dr. Atlas says "pregnancy is an immunosuppressive state, so people can become ill quicker".

Bottom line, Dr. Fink says, is that "you’re entitled to get sick just like someone who is not pregnant, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind."

Prevention

Apart from cure, prevention is also very important. Here are some of Dr. Fink’s recommendations:

  • Be conscientious about hand washing
  • Avoid people with known infectious diseases
  • Make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations
  • Avoid changing cat litter

Follow the USDA and CDC recommendations regarding a potentially serious but uncommon infectious source of fever known as Listeria. Here are a few:

  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods that contain unpasteurized milk
  • Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked food
  • Do not eat salads made in the store such as ham salad, chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad or seafood salad