Fever During Pregnancy: Signs, Effects, And Treatment

Written by Rebecca Malachi • 

Table Of Contents:

Running a fever during pregnancy? Do not panic but at the same time do not hesitate from taking medication. Yes, you need to see a doctor and get relief because the risk of developmental delays and autism is higher in children whose mothers did not take anti-fever medication during pregnancy (1).

But why is fever caused during pregnancy? Does it affect your baby? And how can you deal with it? MomJunction answers all these questions and more. Read on.

What Is A Fever During Pregnancy?

The average oral body temperature is 36-37 degrees centigrade (96.8-98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). But when the temperature spikes up to more than 38.3°C (100.94°F), it is a fever. It comes with certain typical signs such as shivering, sweating, headache, dehydration, muscle ache and fatigue (2).

But, what can be those underlying conditions of fever in pregnancy?

[ Read: Glandular Fever During Pregnancy ]

Causes Of Fever During Pregnancy:

During pregnancy, your immune system becomes weak as it performs extra work to protect both you and the baby. Therefore, you are susceptible to infections, chills or fevers during pregnancy. There could be other reasons for fever:

1. Caught by common cold:

A common cold is often accompanied by fever. The symptoms are similar to the flu, and include a runny nose, cough, sore throat and difficulty in breathing. These symptoms usually subside within three to 15 days. If you continue to suffer even after this period, you should seek medical advice (3).

Prevent it: Keep your home and work area tidy, wash your hands often and avoid contact with those suffering from a cold.

2. Highly contagious influenza:

Influenza or flu is another major cause of fever during pregnancy. The symptoms associated with an influenza attack include achiness, fever, coughing, vomiting, and nausea. If the symptoms persist, seek medical help.

Treat yourself: Drink plenty of fluids, take proper rest and do not ignore the recommended flu shots.

3. Urinary tract infection (UTI):

About 10% pregnant women develop urinary tract infection (UTI) during their pregnancies. UTI occurs when the bacteria traverses from the rectum or vagina to the urethra up to the bladder. It results in cloudy or bloody urine, fever, chills, and burning sensation when urinating (4).

Treat yourself: Drink lots of water and take the prescribed antibiotics. If left untreated, UTIs may pose a risk of kidney infection, and also lead to various pregnancy complications. Regular urine testing can help monitor the condition.

4. Invasion of gastrointestinal virus:

When a GI bug invades your body, it comes with symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. All of these symptoms can also cause preterm labor, if not treated on time.

Treat yourself: For temporary relief, a healthy diet of apple sauce, bread, rice, and bananas can be useful to treat the signs of the gastrointestinal virus. Also, it is good to drink plenty of water. Along with high temperature (above 101°F), if you are suffering from blood-vomiting and dehydration, you should see a doctor immediately.

[ Read: Hot Flashes During Pregnancy ]

5. Chorioamnionitis, the foul smell discharge:

Chorioamnionitis occurs in one to two percent of pregnancies. It is a bacterial infection of the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, and the common indications are a rapid heartbeat, tender uterus, vaginal discharge, sweating, high fever, and chills. If chorioamnionitis occurs during the advanced stages of pregnancy, the doctor might recommend immediate cesarean section to avoid any infection to the baby (5).

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics that will be continued even after delivery to prevent any further infections.

6. Fifth disease or parvovirus B19:

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only five percent of pregnant women get this rare contagious infection. The common indications include rashes, soreness in joints, headache, sore throat and fever. Parvovirus can lead to complications such as miscarriage, fetal anemia, stillbirth and heart inflammation in the fetus (6).

7. Flu-like listeria (listeriosis):

Listeriosis occurs if you take contaminated water and food. The common symptoms include high fever, nausea, muscle aches, diarrhea, headaches, stiff neck or convulsions. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as premature delivery, stillbirth, and miscarriage (7).

Prevent it: Avoid unpasteurized meat and milk, and smoked seafood. Consume food which is thoroughly cooked.

Fever, irrespective of the reasons, makes you suffer, especially during pregnancy when you are already weak. But how is your baby affected due to your fever?

[ Read: Overheating During Pregnancy ]

Does Fever During Pregnancy Harm Your Baby?

A low fever during the first-trimester pregnancy will not cause any problem, but a high temperature can be dangerous for your baby. It is because the fetal development in the early stages is highly dependent on the protein activity which is sensitive to temperature. If the temperature increases from the normal 98.6 to 102 °F, it hinders the functioning of proteins and can lead to miscarriage.

According to a study, fever during early pregnancy increases the risk of oral clefts in babies. However, the usage of antipyretics (medication to reduce fever) can diminish the deleterious effects (8).

Fever during the third trimester does not cause any problem to your baby unless it is related to the uterine lining.

If you are scared after reading this, it is natural. But instead of sitting there worried, you need to take measures to deal with a fever.

15 Ways To Deal With Fever During Pregnancy:

Once your healthcare provider confirms that your temperature is not a concern, you can try some simple ways to bring the fever down:

  1. Stay in a cool area. Remain in an airy place. Turn on an overhead or vertical fan and rest near it.
  1. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. Do not overdress yourself. Cotton clothes assist in proper air circulation. If you are feeling cold, then cover yourself with a light sheet.
  1. Take a warm wash or sponge bath. It helps in lowering your temperature. Do not use cold water.
  1. Consume plenty of fluids. Stay hydrated. Drink cool, non-carbonated fluids such as electrolyte replacement or water-based flavored drinks. Juices such as lemonade help in lowering your body temperature and regaining lost glucose and electrolytes.
  1. Get plenty of rest. Being in an inactive mode keeps your body cool and lowers the risk of fainting and stumbling due to dizziness.
  1. Apply hot or cold packs to bring down fever. You can buy the ready-made hot and cold packs available at drug stores or make them at home. To make a hot pack at home, heat a damp washcloth in the microwave for 55 seconds. Test the temperature before use to prevent scalding. A small package of frozen peas can work as a cold compress. You can also wrap ice in muslin cloth or foil and apply it directly on the forehead to reduce fever.

If the fever is due to cold and cough:

  1. Blow your nose often and right away. When you blow hard, the pressure carries the germ-carrying phlegm to the ear passages causing earaches. So the best way to clear your nasal passage is to press one nostril and blow the other gently.

[ Read: Cold During Pregnancy ]

  1. Salt water breaks nasal congestion. This helps remove the virus and bacterial particles from the nose. Mix one-fourth teaspoon salt with as much baking powder and eight ounces of warm water. Use bulb, syringe or nasal irrigation kit to squirt water into the nose. Hold one nostril and squirt water into the other and let it drain. Repeat twice or thrice for each nostril.
  1. Gargling moistens a sore throat and brings temporary relief. Gargle with half a teaspoon of salt by mixing it in eight ounces of warm water. Do it four times a day. To reduce throat irritation, you can do astringent gargle with tea that has tannin to tighten the membranes in the throat. You can also gargle with honey and apple cider vinegar solution. Another alternative is a mixture of one tablespoon of raspberry leaves or lemon juice, a cup of hot water and honey.
  1. Herbal infusions for a sigh of relief. Drink hot beverages like ginger and herbal teas. Hot drinks help soothe the inflamed membrane lining in the nose, reduce nasal congestion and prevent dehydration. However, avoid chamomile tea as it has emmenagogue properties that could lead to bleeding.
  1. Take a steamy shower. It moisturizes the nasal passages and helps you relax. If you feel dizzy due to flu, run a steam bath.
  1. Dab on some mentholated salve. Use a mentholated salve on your nose and chest to open the congested nasal passages and cure the irritated skin at the base of the nose. You can use menthol, camphor and eucalyptus to soothe the skin on the nose rubbed raw due to constant wiping and rubbing. The salve is meant for external use only, and make sure it doesn’t enter your nose by accident.
  1. Extra pillows can relieve nasal congestion. Sleep with extra pillows since elevating the head can relieve congested nasal passages. If the angle is creating discomfort, then place the pillows between the mattress and box springs to create a gradual slope.
  1. Say no to air travel. It is not safe to travel by plane in pregnancy, especially if you have a fever, cold, and flu. It is because air pressure can create stress to already congested nasal passage. Flying with cold and flu can temporarily damage the eardrums due to the pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you have to travel on an emergency, carry a nasal spray and decongestant. Also chewing the gum helps relieve pressure.
  1. Eat foods that fight the infections:
  • Eat infection-fighting foods like banana and rice if you have diarrhea along with fever.
  • Vitamin C containing foods boost your immunity to fight fever effectively.
  • Blueberries help in curbing fever and diarrhea as they contain aspirin.
  • Chili pepper opens up sinuses and breaks mucus in the lungs.
  • Cranberries prevent the bacteria from sticking to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract.
  • Mustard and horseradish break down the mucus in the air passages.
  • Onions contain phytochemicals that prevent bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Black and green teas have catechins, a phytochemical which is a natural antibiotic and provides relief from diarrhea.

Along with the above measures, you can try some natural remedies to treat fever during pregnancy. Medicines are not always a solution as antibiotics have side-effects. Moreover, natural cures will not make you drowsy not affect your mood.

[ Read: How To Handle Dehydration During Pregnancy ]

Easy Natural Remedies To Reduce Fever During Pregnancy:

  1. Add half a cup of vinegar to a lukewarm bath and soak for five to ten minutes.
  1. Boil artichokes and cook until soft. Eat the bottom part of the leaves.
  1. Add one teaspoon of tulsi (basil) leaves to a cup of hot water and steep for five minutes. Drink it thrice or four times a day. A high fever will subside by the next day. Other herbs that aid in sweating and bringing down fever are peppermint, elderflowers, and yarrow.
  1. Place a slice of raw onion on the bottom of each foot and wrap the feet with a warm blanket.
  1. Dip a washcloth in a bowl of warm water mixed with a cup of vinegar. Wring out the excess moisture and apply it on the forehead to treat a high fever.
  1. Add one teaspoon of mustard seeds to a cup of hot water and steep for five minutes and then drink.
  1. Slice a potato, soak the slices in vinegar and apply it to the forehead when you lie down and place a washcloth on top of the potato slices. It will bring down the fever within 20 minutes.
  1. Place a lemon on the bottom of the feet and cover it with a wet cotton sock. Then cover the wet cotton sock with a wool sock. An alternative sock treatment can be done by soaking two washcloths in egg whites and placing them below the feet and then covering with socks.
  1. Warm a mixture of two tablespoons of olive oil and two large crushed garlic cloves. Apply this under the sole of the feet and cover it with plastic. Olive oil and garlic bring down fever.
  1. Soak 25 raisins in water and then crush them into the water and strain. Add the raisin juice and half of lime to water and drink it twice a day.

If the fever doesn’t subside after following these home remedies, then consult a doctor. Your healthcare provider could recommend urine and blood tests, to diagnose the cause of your fever.

Fever Medications During Pregnancy:

  • The doctor may usually prescribe paracetamol and acetaminophen (Tylenol), both of which are safe and help reduce fever (9).
  • Avoid aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen.
  • Also, avoid homeopathic medications such as Echinacea.

It is always advisable to accurately follow the dosing information of the medicine for fever during pregnancy. Do not take antibiotics randomly as they can affect the fetal growth.

[ Read: How To Cure Malaria During Pregnancy ]

How Can You Avoid A Fever When You Are Pregnant?

Though it is not completely possible to prevent fever in pregnancy, you can surely be careful:

  • Get vaccination against seasonal flu and H1N1 influenza.
  • Wash your hands often with an antiseptic.
  • Stay away from sick people.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk.
  • Avoid tanning beds, saunas, and hot tubs.
  • Avoid self-medication at all costs.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is the first line of treatment for hay fever during pregnancy?

Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is caused by allergens such as pollen, dust, and animal fur. The symptoms are similar to cold-causing sneezes, itching, and runny nose. During pregnancy, this condition can turn worse because a weak immune system causes hay fever. Moreover, hormonal changes make you vulnerable to severe cold and running nose.

You can use nasal corticosteroid sprays as only a minute amount of the drug can pass into your bloodstream and then to your baby.

2. Is scarlet fever harmful during pregnancy?

Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria of strep group, the same bacteria which causes a sore throat. Spread by airborne droplets, it is contagious and spreads when infected person coughs or sneezes. Scarlet fever is not a serious threat to the mother and the fetus in early pregnancy. But if you are infected during the delivery time, you will pass on the infection to the newborn.

3. What are the risks of dengue fever during pregnancy?

A dengue attack during pregnancy can be severe due to your suppressed immune system. It carries risks such as pre-term labor, pre-eclampsia, and low birth weight in the baby. Also, it could lead to cesarean section. You will be at a high risk of hemorrhage (heavy bleeding) during labor and may require a transfusion.

[ Read: How To Treat Dengue During Pregnancy ]

4. Is glandular fever risky during pregnancy?

Glandular fever is a contagious infection caused by Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) that spreads through the saliva of an infected person. It is likely to cause high temperature and fatigue during pregnancy. However, it will not affect your baby. Consult your healthcare specialist if you suffer from its associated symptoms.

Mild fever is not dangerous during pregnancy and can be treated with some home remedies. However, if the temperature is high and is not subsiding even after all your efforts at home, see a doctor immediately. Pregnancy is a time when you cannot take any ailment lightly.

Have any solutions to avoid or get relief from cold and fever during pregnancy? Do share them with us.

Recommended Articles:

Was this article helpful?

Latest Articles