Doctors consider a temperature of 100.4°F and over to be a fever indicating that your body is fighting an infection. A fever during pregnancy is no different from a regular fever, except that it may carry some risks or be indicative of a pregnancy-related complication (1). Now, before you get stressed out any further, you need to understand that not every instance of fever is dangerous. Most of the time it is easily resolved without any harm to you or your growing baby.
The important thing to do is to promptly identify the underlying cause and get it treated. This guide can help you understand the different reasons behind fever in pregnancy period, and what you can do about it.
In This Article
Common Causes Of Fever During Pregnancy
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
UTIs or urinary tract infections are quite common during pregnancy and can present fever as a symptom. Your urinary tract comprises your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, and an infection may develop from bacteria that get into this system. Most urinary tract infections occur in the bladder and can present other symptoms besides fever, like (2):
- Strong urge to urinate
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Pelvic pain
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in the urine
If UTIs are left untreated, the infection may reach the kidneys and cause serious complications including preterm labor, low birth weight in babies, and even sepsis (3).
- Sudden high fever
Flu should be treated and monitored to reduce the risk of serious complications. As flu can make you really ill, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women should take the flu shot (6).
- Upper Respiratory Infection
A viral infection in the upper respiratory tract, or the common cold, can be another reason behind a fever in pregnancy. While an upper respiratory tract infection has similar symptoms as the flu, they are generally not as severe and tend to resolve by themselves, generally within two weeks. Some additional symptoms that may distinguish a common cold from the flu are (7):
- Low-grade fever
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Breathing difficulty
You may be able to treat the common cold with home remedies. However, if your symptoms do not improve, get in touch with your doctor as URI in pregnancy may be associated with behavior problems in childhood (8).
Gastrointestinal infection may cause fever in pregnancy, and it may present with more worrying symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Dehydration resulting from these can have serious consequences as it may cause contractions or preterm labor (9), (10).
Low blood pressure, dizziness, weakness, fainting, and electrolyte imbalance are some other serious side effects of a gastrointestinal infection. You should immediately contact the doctor in the following situations (11):
- There is blood in your vomit.
- You have signs of dehydration like thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, low urine output.
- You have a fever above 101 °F.
- You cannot drink or eat anything without throwing up for 24 hours.
- There is blood in your stool.
It is best to keep your ob-gyn informed about your condition to avoid the risk of complications. You should drink plenty of fluids and may change to a bland or BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet as a natural way to support your prescribed treatment.
Depending on what the reason behind your pregnancy fever is, you may need to work with your ob-gyn, even when it comes to over-the-counter medications. That’s because some commonly used OTC medicines to treat fever and other symptoms may not be safe during pregnancy. Besides this, there are a number of things you can do at home to help get rid of fever naturally.
Best Home Remedies To Treat Fever During Pregnancy
- Place a damp washcloth on your forehead as you lie down. Let it rest there for a minute before you dip it in cool water again and place it back after squeezing out any excess water.
- Take a lukewarm bath. You can soak in a bathtub for a while or if you are uncomfortable, take a sponge bath. Don’t use cold water or rubbing alcohol to cool the fever down.
- Drinking anything may feel like a chore, but continue to drink plenty of fluids so that you can stay hydrated and also help cool your body from within.
- If you have a fan, turn it on and keep it at a comfortable speed. This can help your body cool down and lower your temperature.
- Wear only a light layer of clothing. If you feel chills, wrap a light blanket around you till you feel warm. Remove it if you are feeling too warm.
- Stay indoors, away from the sun and heat. In the evening, find a cool and comfortable place to rest.
You may be able to bring down your temperature using these methods, but if the fever comes back, you should call your ob-gyn. Pregnancy and fever don’t gel well, so you need to be aware when professional help is the way to go.
When To See A Doctor
You need to contact your doctor when your fever does not subside after trying the natural remedies or if you have accompanying symptoms indicating a serious underlying condition.
Besides the common causes of fever that may affect you during your pregnancy, there are a few medical conditions that affect only pregnant women and may cause fever-like symptoms. These conditions require prompt medical attention as they may cause unwanted complications. Some of them are (1):
This is a medical condition characterized by a bacterial infection in the membranes (chorion and amnion) that surround the fetus as well as the amniotic fluid. Fever, chills, sweating, rapid heartbeat, unusual vaginal discharge, and a tender uterus are common symptoms of chorioamnionitis.
If left untreated, this can lead to serious complications for both the mother and baby (12).
Listeria is a serious infection that may result from the consumption of contaminated food or water. Fever is one of the earliest symptoms of listeria. Other signs include muscle ache, nausea, and diarrhea. The infection can spread to the nervous system if not treated promptly and may cause loss of balance, headache, stiff neck, confusion, and convulsions. Not all cases of listeria cause harm to the unborn child, but in some, there is the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, severe infection in the newborn, and even stillbirth (13).
- Fifth Disease Or Parvovirus B19
Parvovirus B19 is rare in pregnant women, however, if contracted, it may lead to miscarriage or cause the baby to be born with severe anemia. Fever may or may not accompany joint pain, which is the most common symptom of Parvovirus B19 in adults (14).
Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor can prescribe you the course of treatment keeping in mind both your and your baby’s health. You can take a glimpse at some common medical treatment options for a fever during pregnancy.
Medical Ways To Treat A Fever While Pregnant
- For fever related to a viral infection, your doctor may ask you to take acetaminophen, commonly available as Tylenol. In addition, he may prescribe an antiviral medication.
- For a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe you a course of antibiotics to stop the spread of the infection.
- Your doctor may also prescribe you additional drugs for the symptomatic treatment depending on the medical condition that is causing your fever.
A fever during pregnancy can feel stressful, even with support and prescription medication. The best thing of course is to do as much as possible to lower your risk of getting it.
There are a number of ways to minimize your chances of getting a fever during pregnancy. Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow:
- Avoid contact with anybody with symptoms of cold or cough.
- Avoid going out to crowded places.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after touching public surfaces.
- Avoid partially cooked eggs, meat, cheese, and seafood.
- Carry your own clean drinking water with you.
- Maintain the pH balance of your vagina to lower the risk of UTIs (15).
- Keep your immunity up by adding immunity-boosting foods like lemon and garlic to your diet (16).
- Urinary tract infection (UTI), influenza, upper respiratory infection, and gastroenteritis, are some of the common causes of fever during pregnancy.
- Medical conditions that affect pregnant women and may cause fever-like symptoms are chorioamnionitis, listeria, and fifth disease or parvovirus B19.
- To prevent fever during pregnancy, avoid crowded places, drink your own clean water, do not come in contact with people with symptoms of cold or cough.
In conclusion, fever during pregnancy may pose some risk to the mother and the growing fetus, depending on when the fever occurs and the underlying cause behind it. You can try some natural ways to bring down your temperature during a fever, but you should also notify your ob-gyn about it. As your body suppresses your natural immune system during your pregnancy, you may be at an increased risk of developing infections. As a preventive measure, you may want to reduce your exposure to environmental pathogens and take certain precautions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can pregnancy hormones cause fever?
Pregnancy hormones do not cause fever. However, they do work to suppress the immune system, which may make the body more susceptible to fever. In addition, the pregnancy hormone progesterone may cause a slight rise in body temperature, which may be mistakenly thought to be fever (but is not).
Is Dolo safe in pregnancy?
Dolo 650 is a brand name for paracetamol, which is considered safe during pregnancy in limited quantities. It is recommended to consult with your ob-gyn before taking any medication during pregnancy and adhere to the prescribed dosage.
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- El-Kashif M. M. L. Urinary Tract Infection among Pregnant Women and its Associated Risk Factors: A Cross-Sectional Study. Biomed Pharmacol J 2019;12(4).
- Prevalence of Urinary Tract Infection Among Pregnant Women and its Complications in Their Newborns During the Birth in the Hospitals of Dezful City Iran 2012 – 2013
- Incidence risk factors and impact of seasonal influenza in pregnancy: A national cohort study
- Flu Symptoms & Diagnosis
- Influenza (Flu) Vaccine and Pregnancy
- Upper Respiratory Tract Infection
- Upper respiratory infection during pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes among offspring
- Influence of Hospitalization-Requiring Gastroenteritis in Pregnancy on Perinatal Outcome
- Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis: Clinical Manifestation Natural Course and Evaluation of Treatment with Corticosteroids and Vedolizumab
- Diagnosis and Management of Clinical Chorioamnionitis
- An Update Review on Listeria Infection in Pregnancy
- Exposure to fifth disease in pregnancy
- The Vaginal Microbiota and Urinary Tract Infection
- Food for Support Immunity
- Maternal fever and birth outcome: a prospective study
- Core body temperature and the thermoneutral zone: A longitudinal study of normal human pregnancy
- Paracetamol use during pregnancy — a call for precautionary action