As if pregnancy isn't difficult enough, what with changing hormones, an expanding body, and all the other annoying, arguably weird symptoms, there's the potential for a fever. I mean, come one pregnancy gods. Give it a rest. But, alas, during 40 weeks (more or less) a woman's suppressed immune system has to work extra hard to keep both mom and fetus healthy. So, how high of a fever can a pregnant woman have? After all, even the most run-of-the-mill cold can be scary when your body is doing something as difficult, and incredible, as growing a human being inside your own body.
A fever is usually the result of an underlying cause, such as an infection or virus. A fever is the result of your body honing on in whatever has attacked your body, and attempting to eradicate it. But according to BabyCenter, a pregnant woman can only have a temperature of up to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over that particular temperature, especially if you're experiencing chills or other symptoms, and it's time to call a doctor. A new study published in Science suggests that if an expectant mother has a fever during the first three to eight weeks of pregnancy, it may interfere with baby's heart and jaw development. The result could be a baby born with a heart defect or facial abnormalities, like a cleft lip or palette. So fevers, while common, are something to keep an eye on when you're pregnant.
A high fever during pregnancy can also increase the risk of your baby developing autism, according to a recent study in Molecular Psychiatry. The aforementioned study states that mothers with fevers during the second trimester have an increased risk of autism (up to 40 percent higher). However, when a high fever is experienced in the third trimester, the risk goes down considerably, to 15 percent. The conclusion wasn't that prenatal fever was the sole cause for autism, as more research is still to be done, but it's important for pregnant woman to be aware of possible outcomes of a fever that surpasses 100.4 degrees if left untreated.
Some specific causes of a fever, according to Parents, might be a urinary tract infection, the flu, a cold, a GI bug, listeria, or even Fifth Disease — a common, yet highly contagious viral illness noted by joint pain and soreness. Typically Fifth Disease occurs during childhood, and is rare for an adult to contract, but if a pregnant woman comes down with Fifth Disease the result can be miscarriage or a baby born with anemia.
Dr. Kecia Gaither, Director of Perinatal Services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center and a member of NYC Health + Hospitals System in Bronx, New York, tells Healthline that a high fever could be the result of food poisoning. If you've recently eaten something before coming down with a fever, and you're experiencing nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain, it's important to stabilize the electrolytes that are diminished due to dehydration. And even if you have no other symptoms, it's advised you seek medical attention immediately.
So, how are you supposed to know when to call the doctor? The Bump states that a doctor should be called if you've held a fever for 24 to 36 hours, and especially if you have a rash, nausea, and/or vomiting (as previously mentioned). While IBuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can harm the baby's cardiovascular development, Tylenol is said to be a safe bet, along with a lukewarm bath and a cold compress or cloth on your head.
When it comes down to it, having a fever, however slight, during pregnancy isn't fun. Aside from rest and cold compresses, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor and let them know your symptoms to determine if you should be seen or be prescribed something to bring the temperature down. You never know if it's worth checking into or not, but with so much at stake it can't hurt to call your health care provider and voice any questions or concerns you have.
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