When you're pregnant it can seem like you catch every cold or stomach bug that's going around. An unfair reality, to be sure, because pregnancy makes you feel like garbage all by itself. Plus, when you're pregnant you can't take the good medications you usually rely on for relief. So if you're currently growing a human inside your tired body, and you have yet another case of the sniffles, it's natural to start to wonder if you're more likely to get sick when you're pregnant. Experts have an answer, it's just that, well, it's probably an answer that's going to make your headache worse.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), your immune system is suppressed during pregnancy and, as a result of that suppression, you are actually more susceptible to illness. While that definitely sucks, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, there's a good reason for your immune system to take lay low while you're pregnant. According to What To Expert, your body is trained to fight off foreign invaders, which isn't really a thing you want your body to do with that "foreign invader" is your growing baby. So your immune system takes some time off during pregnancy in order for the fetus to develop.
According to a study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, hormone changes that happen during pregnancy — specifically estrogen, progesterone, and glucocorticoids — can stop inflammatory responses by your immune system, which protects your fetus but also makes you susceptible to those infections that your body would typically target and destroy. What's worse, however, is that according to the same study some of these illnesses — like influenza, HIV, and toxoplasmosis — can be very serious during pregnancy, for both a mom and her fetus. So, yeah, it sucks.
So, what can you do? According to the APA, prevention is your best bet. It's really important that you take care of your health during pregnancy. The site advises eating a healthy diet, taking your prenatal vitamins, getting enough sleep, and perhaps most importantly, washing your hands. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), influenza infection during pregnancy can be more severe than when you're not pregnant, and can harm your growing fetus. The CDC goes on to recommend that all pregnant women get a flu shot to protect against influenza, especially during flu season.
If (or perhaps when) you do get sick during pregnancy, the APA recommends that you consult your health care provider before taking any over-the-counter medications to manage your symptoms, as some might not be safe for you or your baby. The site also advises pregnant women to contact their doctor if they have a fever above 102 degrees, or have symptoms like a cough or chest pain that don't go away in a few days.
While getting sick is never fun, especially if you're already suffering through morning sickness and a slew of other less-than-pleasant pregnancy side effects, if you get some rest, communicate with your doctor, and eat healthy, you should rest easy knowing that your body is doing what it has to in order to allow your baby to grow.