Having a fever under any circumstance can be concerning, but a fever during pregnancy can be particularly unsettling. Your immune system is actually weaker when you’re expecting, so you’re more susceptible to getting sick—and your symptoms may linger for longer. Aside from feeling especially crappy, it’s natural to worry whether your spike in temperature will affect baby. Here’s what you need to know about keeping you and baby safe and getting you back to good health.
Symptoms of Fever in Pregnancy
A fever is clinically defined as having a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. But of course there’s a range of severity. A person’s normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees, so anytime your temperature is above that, you could technically have a fever (albeit a mild one), says Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, Florida. “We usually consider a fever something that needs extra attention if it’s over 102 degrees,” she adds.
If you have a fever during pregnancy, the symptoms you may experience would be the same as if you weren’t expecting. “Being pregnant shouldn’t alter that,” says Julie Lamppa, CNM, RN, a certified nurse midwife at Mayo Clinic. Those symptoms include:
- Feeling hot and flushed
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
Dangers of Fever in Pregnancy
Wondering how baby may be affected by your fever? Rest assured, just because you’re sick doesn’t mean baby is also infected. Rather, the risks depend on how high your temperature gets. When you have a fever, your internal body temperature rises, which can also increase baby’s temperature, Lamppa says. “When a fetus becomes too warm, their heart rate may increase,” she says. However, Lamppa adds, “this is usually temporary and shouldn’t cause any long-term concerns.”
A low-grade fever usually isn’t something to be too concerned about. That said, if a woman has a prolonged fever due to an infection, there’s a chance it could harm baby, Greves says. That’s also true if your temperature spikes in the first trimester, since a fever in early pregnancy—a critical period of fetal development—can increase the odds that baby could develop neural tube defects and other congenital abnormalities, Lamppa says.
Causes of Fever in Pregnancy
If you’re having a fever, there’s a reason for it. “A fever is a symptom,” Greves says. “You need to ask why this person is having a fever.”
There are a few things that could be behind this, she says. Maybe it’s just because you have a little cold—in which case, the odds of your fever affecting your pregnancy are really low, Greves says. Other common culprits behind a fever in pregnancy include the flu, a urinary tract infection (UTI) and a stomach bug. But it’s also possible to have a fever due to something more serious like listeriosis (a bacterial infection), toxoplasmosis (a parasitic infection) or encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), she says. “That’s when the fever can be a problem—because of the reason behind it,” Greves says. Which is why it’s important to alert your doctor of your symptoms.
Treatment for Fever in Pregnancy
In general, it’s okay to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) when you have a fever during pregnancy, Lamppa says. Other than that, make sure you stay well hydrated and get a lot of rest, she says. Putting a cool washcloth on your forehead may help you feel better as well.
Things you shouldn’t take for a fever in pregnancy include aspirin and ibuprofen (i.e., Advil or Motrin), or, according to Greves, any herbal medication. “This is a very important period of time, and we don’t have any controlled studies that say herbal medications are safe,” she says.
Call your doctor if your fever doesn’t come down with Tylenol or if you notice an increase in contractions, abdominal pain or tenderness, loss of fluid or decrease in fetal movement, Lamppa says. And, of course, don’t hesitate to check in with your doctor if you have any concerns at any point.
Updated February 2020
Christine Greves, MD, FACOG, is an ob-gyn at the Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, Florida. She received her medical degree from the University of South Florida College of Medicine.
Julie Lamppa, APRN, CNM, is a certified nurse midwife at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
If you are running a fever, taking medicine doesn’t always need to be the first option. Try these remedies to reduce a fever during pregnancy and cool yourself down.
1. Dress for the Temperature
Don’t overdress or under dress yourself. Putting on too many clothes retains your body’s heat; under dressing encourages shivering, which produces more heat. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes that allow the air to circulate over your skin.
2. Keep Cool
Open a window, turn on the air conditioner, or go outside. Cool, fresh air removes the heat from your body.
3. Drink lots of Fluids
Sweating and fast breathing cause your body to lose fluids that need replacing. Carry around a water bottle and sip all day long.
4. Feed the Fever
The extra heat you produce burns up fuel that needs replacing with nutritious calories. Calorie-filled, cool smoothies combine the need for food and fluids.
5. Reduce a Fever with a Cool Dip
Soak in a lukewarm bath or shower that is cool enough not to be uncomfortable or make you shiver. Then step out of the tub while still wet and allow your body to cool by evaporation.
Fever During Pregnancy: The Ultimate Guide
If you develop a fever while pregnant, it’s normal to worry if your baby will be alright.
Thankfully, there’s usually no need to panic. Taking steps to treat the fever and the underlying cause, with help from a doctor, should keep you and your baby A-okay.
Here’s a full guide to fever during pregnancy.
In this article: 📝
- Is it normal to have a low-grade fever during early pregnancy?
- What is considered a fever during pregnancy?
- What causes fever during pregnancy?
- Can fever during pregnancy harm your baby?
- How to treat a fever during pregnancy
- When should you call a doctor if you have a fever while pregnant?
- Preventing fever during pregnancy
Is it normal to have a low-grade fever during early pregnancy?
Pregnancy with fever? Not normal.
But hold your horses. A little extra warmth might not mean you have a fever.
Growing a baby human can raise your body temperature a little.
This is because of the extra blood in your body and the rise in the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, which can also be behind those pesky flushes and even the occasional hot flash. Fun fact: it’s also why cats love to sit on mamas-to-be.
In early pregnancy, your hormones are bouncing around all over the place, so it’s not unusual to feel warmer than normal. And feeling toasty doesn’t necessarily equal fever.
The easiest way to check if you have a fever is simply to use a thermometer.
What is considered a fever during pregnancy?
Pregnancy doesn’t change the normal definition of a fever.
A healthy adult’s body temperature should always be around 98.6°F.
If your oral thermometer reading shows anything over 100.4°F, you officially have a fever.
A fever is also likely to come along with other symptoms, such as dizziness, alternate feelings of hot and cold, chills, or nausea, which you shouldn’t feel if you’re just a little warmer than usual.
If your temperature is higher than 101°F, this would be considered a high fever. High fevers can be dangerous, so if your temperature is at 101°F or above, you should definitely call your doctor to ask for advice.
What causes fever during pregnancy?
While our body temperature can slightly rise and fall for many different reasons, a fever is usually the sign that your body is trying to fight something off.
The most common causes of fever while pregnant include:
Colds and flu: Your immune system is a little weaker during pregnancy, so you’re more susceptible to common bugs.
COVID-19: Fever is one of the main symptoms of COVID. Tell your doctor and ask for a COVID test if you’re running a fever and you have any other symptoms, like a persistent cough, loss of your sense of taste or smell, or noticeable fatigue.
Viral or bacterial infections: Colds and flu are viral infections, but other viruses and bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or strep throat also trigger fever.
Food poisoning: Sadly, pregnancy doesn’t exempt you from food poisoning, either, especially listeriosis, which comes from undercooked meats or unpasteurized cheeses. This is the main reason behind all the foods that people tell you to avoid while pregnant.
Can fever during pregnancy harm your baby?
Getting a fever from a cold or other mild infection is fairly common in pregnancy.
Almost always, mamas who were sick at some point in their pregnancy give birth to healthy babies. So finding out that you have a fever isn’t a reason to panic.
However, it’s also a good idea to get to the bottom of what’s causing the fever so you can stop it from becoming more serious.
There is some research to suggest slight links between serious fevers in the first trimester of pregnancy and complications including neural tube defects, congenital heart defects, and facial malformations like cleft palates.
Other studies have raised concerns about higher rates of autism in pregnancies with untreated fevers in the second trimester, although we don’t know this for sure.
While these all sound scary, none of the studies have found a strong link, and later studies have suggested that there actually isn’t conclusive evidence at all.
So keep a thermometer to hand but, as long as you stay in touch with your doctor, you and your baby should be safe and sound.
Can a fever cause a miscarriage?
One of the biggest fears about getting sick while pregnant is the possibility that it could cause pregnancy loss.
Take a deep breath, mama, because so much of the evidence is reassuring.
If a link has been found, it’s between certain very serious infections and pregnancy loss. A regular cold or throat infection, while miserable, is extremely unlikely to have the same effect.
How to treat a fever during pregnancy
Wondering how to reduce fever during pregnancy?
The only over-the-counter medicine recommended to bring down a fever during pregnancy is a low dose of acetaminophen or paracetamol, the main ingredient in Tylenol or Panado.
Other methods can help too:
- A cool damp cloth over your eyes and face
- A lukewarm (not cold) bath or shower
- Resting in a cool room
- Drinking lots of fluids
And treating the fever also means treating the underlying cause.
If your fever is related to a bacterial infection, rather than a viral one, you might need antibiotics or other prescription medication.
When should you call a doctor if you have a fever while pregnant?
If your temperature is anything over 100°F, this is considered a low-grade fever.
It’s a good idea to keep monitoring it in case it gets any higher, and take some of the steps above to try to bring it down.
Any temperature over 101°F is considered a high fever. If your thermometer’s reading at this level, take the same steps to try and lower it – but make sure you also give your doctor or medical practitioner a call. They’ll then be able to recommend the right treatments to get you better and keep your little one safe.
Preventing fever during pregnancy
As a mama-to-be, you’re probably already doing everything you can to take care of your health while your little one is growing.
These are just a few extra precautions that can make the difference between getting an infection or not:
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly
- Keep a safe distance from people who are sick
- Get your recommended vaccines, like the flu vaccine in winter and the COVID vaccine.
These are all good ways to make sure that a fever during pregnancy is never something you need to worry about.
Fever during pregnancy is always a red flag and it is highly recommended to consult your primary care physician at earliest convenience. The symptoms may suggest minor ailments (such as common cold) but may also indicate a minor presentation of a much grave issue.
There are ways to safely lower a fever during pregnancy whether you choose to take medication or not. Proper dress, hydration and air circulation are just some of the keys to keeping a fever down during pregnancy. Reducing a fever can help you be more comfortable. Here are some suggestions to reduce a fever during pregnancy.
Symptoms of Fever During Pregnancy
The common symptoms are the same as you are likely to get with fever even when you are not pregnant:
- High temperatures.
- Chills. .
- Sweating. .
- Sore throat.
- Muscle pain. .
Possible Causes of Fever During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the immune system of a mother doesn’t work the same as before. That is why there is 100 percent chance that the causative condition can get worse.
1. Gastrointestinal Virus
Besides fever, GI bug can cause vomiting and diarrhea that may culminate in serious problems for pregnant mothers if not treated in time. Dehydration can not only cause pre-mature contractions but may also end up in preterm labor. Hypotension, weakness, dizziness, fainting and electrolyte imbalance are some side effects of poorly managed GI infection.
When to worry: Most mild cases resolve on its own with home remedies and by adding fluids and BRAT diet. It is important to contact your doctor immediately if you experience complications such as blood in the vomitus, signs of dehydration, developing fever or appearance of blood in bowel movements.
2. Urinary Tract Infection
Female urinary tract system is comprised of ureter, bladder, kidneys and urethra. Urinary tract is a frequent site of infection due to invasion and multiplication of bacteria in the lining of urinary tract. Some of the infections are not serious and resolve spontaneously over time (or via antibiotics). Drinking copious amounts of liquids is always a help.
When to worry: If it is left untreated, the infection can travel to kidneys from bladder and cause serious complications such as preterm labor, baby’s low birth weight and sepsis. Some UTIs are asymptomatic, but in case of moderate to severe infection, you may experience high urge to urinate, sensation of burning while passing urine, cloudy urine or blood in it, pelvic pain etc.
If a person experience chills, fever, nausea, coughing, vomiting and achiness then this might be influenza. Pregnant mothers are at higher risk of developing flu and can get seriously ill due to their suppressed immune system. According to National Institute of Health, the symptoms of flu are severe as compared to symptoms of cold.
When to worry: It is important to consult with doctor immediately as soon as you suspect flu’s symptoms. The doctor will recommend higher intake of fluids and ample rest with some antiviral medication to decrease the risk of complications and the duration of infection. It is also important for all pregnant women to have influenza shot.
4. Common Cold
Bacterial invasion of upper respiratory tract can lead to symptoms such as sinus infection, sensation of blocked or clogged nasal pathways, larynx and pharynx. A pregnant mother may experience symptoms same as flu, like fever, runny nose, cough, difficulty in breathing and sore throat. These infections are not serious and can be resolved within 3 to 14 days and can be treated at home easily.
When to worry: In situations when the infection persists beyond 2 weeks or if symptoms are getting worse, there is a high likelihood that the cause is much severe (like pneumonia, sore throat, sinusitis and bronchitis). Do not delay in such cases and immediately consult your doctor.
How to Reduce Fever During Pregnancy
Consult your health care provider or midwife. If they establish that your condition is not harmful to yourself or the baby, continue with the following suggestions.
Place a cool, wet washcloth over your forehead and/or the back of your neck. You may also alternate the cloth between your forehead and back of the neck. Re-wet as necessary.
Avoid overdressing. A single layer of light, breathable fabric such as cotton will allow for proper air circulation. If you get a chill, try covering with a light sheet.
Turn on an overhead or standing fan and rest within the area of the fan’s circulation.
Take a lukewarm bath or sponge bath. Do not use cold water. The evaporation of the water off your skin is what lowers your fever, not the temperature of the water itself.
Stay indoors if possible. If you are outside, be sure to stay in the shade and off your feet.
Stay hydrated. Cool, non-carbonated liquids such as juice, electrolyte replacement or water-based flavored drinks like lemonade will help lower your body temperature as well as replenish lost electrolytes and glucose.
Try a cool fruit smoothie. Your elevated heat burns extra calories as well as bodily fluids. Smoothies are beneficial for replacing those calories and keeping you more comfortable.
- If you are vomiting, avoid food until the fever passes.
Take acetaminophen if you feel comfortable doing so and your health care provider says it is safe. Aspirin or Ibuprofen are not recommended for reducing fever during pregnancy, unless directed by your health care provider.
Get plenty of rest. Not only will inactivity help keep your body cool, it also reduces the risk of stumbling or falling due to dizziness or feeling faint.
Look for alternate treatments to help with any symptoms that may accompany your fever, making you feel more comfortable. Stress and discomfort can often elevate your body temperature. Saline nose spray may help with the discomfort of nasal congestion. Vitamin C drops may alleviate a sore throat. Cranberry juice can help ease the irritation of urinary tract infections.
Does Fever During Pregnancy Hurt Your Baby?
Running a fever over an extended period of time in the first and early second trimesters can hamper the growth of your baby, leading to various birth defects including central nervous system or neural tube defects, cataracts, heart anomalies, micrencephaly (abnormally small braincase) and abdominal wall defects.
Extremely high temperature within the first month of pregnancy is sometimes associated with higher chances of miscarriage.
According to some studies, a long-running fever any time in pregnancy can increase the risks of autism and developmental delay. However, having a mild fever in the third trimester does not usually affect the baby unless it is caused by some serious condition.
Fever is a defense mechanism of the body against an injury or invasion of infective agents like bacteria and viruses. A fever during pregnancy may harm your fetus, it’s vital to find out the correct causes and proper treatments. Mild fever can be cured by home remedies. However, if the fever persists, it could be a cause of something serious and would require medical attention.
What Does Fever During Pregnancy Mean?
During pregnancy, the immune system of a woman is suppressed, making her more prone to infections. The reasons for chills or fever during pregnancy could include:
1. Common Cold
Common cold is not a very serious form of infection (when compared to flu) and it soon goes away within 3-15 days with proper care. It is usually accompanied by symptoms similar to flu, like fever, a runny nose, cough and difficulty in breathing.
How to treat: It can be easily treated by home remedies. Avoiding contact with people suffering from cold, washing your hands frequently and keeping the surfaces in your home and office clean can prevent you from catching a cold.
Every person has experienced symptoms of flu like fever, chills, nausea, cough and vomiting. However, during pregnancy you need to take special care as you are more susceptible to infection due to your suppressed immunity. Flu generally appears rapidly with more severe symptoms as compared to a common cold.
How to treat: Proper rest accompanied by increased fluid intake along with certain medications greatly help during the onset of flu. A pregnant woman is also recommended to take flu shots to prevent this infection.
3. Gastrointestinal Infection (GI)
An infection by the GIbug can be very serious for a pregnant woman. This infection is usually accompanied with severe dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting, along with fever. All these symptoms can result in a preterm birth if they are not treated on time.
How to treat: It is imperative to balance the electrolyte imbalance in the body by drinking plenty of water and having a diet consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (BRAT). Any sign of blood during vomiting, or inability to retain liquids for more than 24 hours and high fever (fever above 101°F) would require an immediate visit to your doctor.
4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Pregnancy hormones can cause changes in your body, including your urinary tract, making you more susceptible to UTIs. They occur when the bacteria from your vagina or rectum enter your urethra and travel upstream to the bladder. They may result in cloudy urinate, fever, chills, pelvic pain, etc.
How to treat: Many UTIs are restricted to the urinary bladder and can be treated by drinking lots of water and intake of antibiotics. However, if UTIs are left untreated, they could move further upstream to your kidneys and cause damage, leading to severe complications with your pregnancy. Regular testing of urine during the course of your pregnancy can help you monitor for any UTI.
During your pregnancy, if you have consumed contaminated water or food, it could lead to a form of infection called as listeriosis. This infection is usually accompanied by symptoms like high fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Listeriosis needs immediate medical attention as it could cause severe complications like preterm birth or even miscarriage if left untreated.
How to treat: The best preventive measure would be to steer clear of any foods like unpasteurized milk or mould ripened cheese. A proper course of antibiotics would also help you get rid of this form of infection.
Could Fever During Pregnancy Hurt Your Baby?
Yes, fever during pregnancy can hurt your baby. It is imperative to lower your fever, thus reducing the risks to your baby.
When the temperature of your body increases above 101 °F (rectal or ear temperature) or 100.4 °F (mouth), it constitutes a fever. Fever during pregnancy can be dangerous to the baby. If left untreated, it can lead to an increased risk of cleft palate in your baby, along with many heart and neural tube defects. These can result in a preterm delivery, stillbirth or even cause miscarriages in many cases.
General Suggestions on How to Handle Fever During Pregnancy
If you have fever during pregnancy, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider and many causes for fever are temporary and easily treatable.
It's best to treat your fever by drinking plenty of water and resting, if you can. Stay in bed if that makes you feel better, but don't get too hot and sweaty under the duvet. It can be easy to overheat when you're pregnant, but it's not good for you or your baby.
If your temperature is more than 38 degrees C, call your GP the same day. If your temperature reaches more than 39 degrees C, call your GP straight away. You may have an infection and a temperature of more than 39 degrees C for a long time may be harmful to your baby.
Your GP or midwife may offer you some tests if she’s not sure of the reason for your high temperature. These could involve a urine sample and a blood test, which will tell your doctor more about what's causing your fever. She’ll then be in the best position to look after you and your baby.
If your waters have broken and you have a fever, contact your midwife or call the maternity unit at the hospital straight away. Having a high temperature during labour could cause problems for your baby, so don’t delay. Your midwife will be able to help bring your temperature down.
If you know you just have a cold and you feel uncomfortable or in pain too, paracetamol is the safest medicine. Just be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the packet and only use it for the shortest time possible.
Don't take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, while you're pregnant, unless advised by your GP. These may not be safe for your developing baby.
If you are running a fever during your pregnancy, your body is building a normal defense mechanism against a possible infection. However, an extended or prolonged fever can have damaging effects on you and the baby during pregnancy if it is not treated. Experiencing a fever during pregnancy has the same ordinary symptoms that include high temperature, sweating, shivering, headache, muscle aches, dehydration and fatigue. Fevers during pregnancy can be caused by the common cold, flu, urinary tract infections, and other infections that your body may be battling.
When you’re pregnant, your immune system is fighting extra hard to protect you and the baby, and so you might be more susceptible to illness and fevers during this time. If you’re experiencing a fever during pregnancy, there are many ways to treat it and help reduce its effects.
Since Tylenol is perfectly safe to take while you’re pregnant, taking the correct dosage of Tylenol can help reduce fevers. Make sure you stay away from aspirin and ibuprofen, as it is not advisable to take these kinds of medicine while pregnant because it can affect the baby’s cardiovascular system. Other medications such as Acetaminophen that can be used to lower fever can be taken safely during pregnancy, but should not be taken in combination with caffeine. If he medication does not bring down your fever, you should contact your healthcare provider.
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2. Take a bath
Taking a lukewarm bath or shower is an effective way to treat a fever. Since the water evaporates off of your skin, it will draw heat and consequently lower your body temperature. Don’t use cold water, however, as that can actually increase your body temperature. Also DO NOT use rubbing alcohol in the bath water, although it has been suggested to help in bringing down a fever, as the vapors can be harmful.
3. Place a washcloth on your forehead
Another way to reduce a fever is to place a cool, wet washcloth on your forehead. This will help draw the heat out of your body and in turn reduce your body temperature.
4. Wear one layer of clothing
If you have a fever during pregnancy, avoid wearing several layers of clothes as it can lead to overheating and maintaining a high body temperature, which can cause a heat stroke or even premature labor. Only dress in one layer of light fabric that will allow air circulation and cooling to ensure that you aren’t sustaining a high body temperature by overheating yourself.
5. Stay hydrated
Drinking lots of fluids is an important way to help treat your fever. Keeping your body hydrated and replenished water that is lost during a fever can help cool your body temperature. Drink water, eat warm soup, and drink beverages high in vitamin C and electrolytes to help improve hydration and replenish nutrients.
6. Stay rested
The most important thing to do during a fever is to make sure that you get plenty of rest. Stay in bed and avoid stress and activity in order to allow your immune system to fight off whatever is attacking it and allow the fever to run its course.
7. Take your prenatal vitamins
Taking prenatal vitamins can help improve your immune system and help maintain your vitamin balance, which can help effectively reduce the risk of fevers.
If you are experiencing symptoms that interfere with your daily activities, such as vomiting, dizziness, or dehydration, you may need to consult your doctor. Additionally, a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit during pregnancy can be serious, and you should seek medical attention
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