What To Do When Expecting During Cold And Flu Season

By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – The season of stuffy noses, coughing, spreading germs, and cold and flu infections are flying across the state faster than we think. With this, many soon-to-be mothers may be asking whether or not it is safe to take cold medicine for these illnesses when trying to birth a healthy baby. Here is what you need to know about the cold and flu while pregnant. 

First, it is important to know that having a cold will not hurt your unborn baby, says Olga Tusheva, M.D. at Inspira Medical Group OB/GYN. 

“They’re protected by the placenta, your immune system and their own immune system, ensuring they don’t experience symptoms,” she says. 

However, things can get more complicated when it comes to the flu. The flu can cause minor or significant fetal development problems. The American Pregnancy Organization states that the flu causes additional stress to be added onto the heart and lungs, decreasing lung capacity and heart rate. When this occurs, especially during pregnancy, it can lead to pneumonia and possible hospitalization. 

While it is vital to prevent contracting the flu at all, the American Pregnancy Organization says if a woman does contract the virus, it increases their risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. The two best ways to keep yourself and loved ones cold and flu free are to wash your hands routinely and make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations. 

Taking vaccinations while pregnant can be frightening for some, for worries about how it may affect yourself or your baby may arise. However, flu vaccinations are proven safe for pregnant mothers and their unborn babies. However, it is important to note that the flu nasal spray (LAIV) vaccine is not recommended because it contains live stands of the virus (American Pregnancy Association.) 

Regarding over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, it is better to begin with rest and lots of water, for some OTC medications can lead to complications with pregnancy. Consult your doctor before taking anything. Before using any OTC medicines, remedies for symptom relief without medication include: using a humidifier, using saline-based nasal drops or sprays, or gargling warm salt water to alleviate the feeling of a sore throat. 

However, many OTC medicines are generally safe for women and their unborn babies. These medications include acetaminophen (Tylenol), some antihistamines (Claritin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl), most steroid-based nasal sprays, and some cough medications, including expectorants, caught suppressants, and most cough drops. 

On the other hand, there are many medications doctors advise pregnant women not to ingest. These include some pain relievers and fever reducers (ibuprofen, aspirin, Aleve), most decongestants (Claritin-D, DayQuil, Sudafed), and non-steroidal nasal sprays (Afrin).

If you suspect you have the flu, it is pertinent that you reach out to your doctor as soon as possible to learn about pregnancy-safe treatments and medications that can reduce symptoms and ensure your unborn baby remains healthy. To learn more key facts about the flu, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm.

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