No doubt about it — growing a baby takes a big toll on your body. And since your health can already be pushed to its limits (quite literally), it makes sense that you might have a greater likelihood of getting sick. That’s why some women feel like they’re perpetually getting over a cold when they’re pregnant. But it’s important to know the signs your immune system is low when you're pregnant. That way, you'll be able to tell if what you're experiencing is a normal pregnancy symptom or something that requires a trip to the doctor's office.
Generally speaking, the indicators that an illness is coming on aren’t all that different for women who are pregnant and those who aren’t expecting. You’re going to feel rundown, tired, and you might be sneezing and coughing regardless. Where it differs is usually in the intensity and duration of symptoms. “Since the pregnant mom is more prone to illness due to a weakened immune system, it is best that she tries to do what she can throughout pregnancy to remain healthy,” OB/GYN Dr. Renee Wellenstein tells Romper. “That means avoiding sick contacts, staying well hydrated, getting adequate sleep and eating a nutritious, balanced diet.”
But if you’re already feeling a little achy and achoo-ing, you might want to read these tips to see if your immune system is compromised — and how to get healthy again.
1. Nasal Congestion/Cough
Whether you’re pregnant or not, you can expect a lot of coughing and congestion. Thing is, the intensity of your symptoms might increase. “You might experience a more severe or faster onset of symptoms since your immune system is weakened for the sole purpose of not rejecting the pregnancy,” says Dr. Wellenstein. Check in with your OB if your symptoms are super severe to make sure you're okay.
2. Uterine Contractions
If you’re feeling kinda crappy (and crampy), you might be able to blame that on an impending illness. “Once you’ve contracted an illness due to a weakened immune system, you might start feeling uterine contractions or cramping,” explains Dr. Wellenstein. “That may or may not lead to vaginal bleeding or spotting.” Talk to your OB if you notice any irregular spotting to ensure that both you and baby are okay.
As a pregnant person, you should be drinking at least 8-10 8-ounce glasses of water daily, What To Expect reported. But a lack of H2O can become a more serious issue during pregnancy and can lead to other issues. “Dehydration in pregnancy is more common if a woman experiences a fever, nausea, or vomiting and diarrhea,” says Dr. Wellenstein. “That will make her more prone to dizziness, lightheadedness and uterine contractions."
4. Acid Reflux
Okay, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to eat that big beef and bean burrito for lunch. But if you’re having increased issues with acid reflux, it might be an indicator that your immune system is struggling. “Between your decreased immunity and especially the physiologic changes in pregnancy, it increases your chances of contracting conditions such as acid reflux,” OB/GYN Dr. Paulami Guha tells Romper.
While getting up too quickly when you’re pregnant can sometimes make the room swirl, you shouldn’t always feel lightheaded. “The enlarged uterus may cause compression of the main abdominal blood vessel, resulting in lightheadedness,” says Dr. Guha. Although you might feel dizzy once in a while, if the condition continues, it could be a sign of a more serious health issue.
Sure, you might gasp when your baby does a karate chop to your kidneys, but you shouldn’t always be out of breath. “Though breathlessness is common in pregnant women, an increased respiratory rate is abnormal during a normal pregnancy,” says Dr. Guha. “So it should definitely be evaluated.”
Puking is just a part of pregnancy, right? Well, not necessarily. “Nausea and vomiting is a common feature of early pregnancy, and usually disappears by 20 weeks,” says Dr. Guha. “But nausea and vomiting is not a normal manifestation of pregnancy when it occurs with abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea or headache, especially in the later weeks of pregnancy.” If your pain persists, speak to a medical professional to determine if you should be tested for any other ailments.
Even if you have an easy breezy pregnancy, it can still be a big stressor to your body. So while feeling sick during those nine months isn’t exactly unusual, you should be aware of any new symptoms — or more importantly, their severity — and speak to your OB if you’re worried that you might have more than just the common cold.
Dr. Renee Wellenstein, M.D., an OB/GYN in Cooperstown, NY
Dr. Paualmi Guha, M.D., a board certified OB/GYN and medical advisor for eMediHealth