When you’re expecting, it can be a little tricky to tell whether you’re running a fever or just feeling a little warmer than usual.
Like most ladies with a bun in the oven, you may be feeling flushed, incredibly sweaty, or extra toasty. And thanks to fluctuating hormones, you might even experience the seemingly random flares of heat — aka hot flashes.
Having a high temp under any circumstance can be worrisome, but a fever when pregnant can be particularly unsettling. Can a fever harm your growing newborn? What are the dangers of fever in early pregnancy? Is it OK to take acetaminophen? We’ll tell you everything you need to know.
How To Tell If You Have a Fever While Pregnant
Before we dive into the telltale signs of fever in pregnancy and how a high temp might affect your baby, let’s first chat about what a fever is.
In short, a fever describes elevated body temperature. It’s a perfectly normal response to infection, and just like anyone, expecting moms can come down with an illness that in turn causes a fever.
You’ve likely heard that the average human body temperature is around 98.6 °F (37 °C), but the truth is that a “normal” temp can fall within a wide range — from 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is because body temperature changes throughout the day, with temperatures being lower in the morning and peaking in the evening, sometimes by one or two degrees. So, what constitutes a fever, you ask?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a fever is a body temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Are the Symptoms of Fever in Pregnancy?
Being pregnant doesn’t alter the definition of a fever. Whether you’re expecting or not, a fever is clinically defined as having a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.
So if your thermometer reads anything over 100.4°F, you officially have a fever. A high temp is also likely to come with a few other symptoms, such as:
- Muscle aches
- Neck stiffness
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
What Causes Fever During Pregnancy?
It’s important to remember that a fever is not a disease but an indication that your body is trying to combat an infection or illness. It is a normal physical response, and depending on the underlying culprit responsible for your fever, symptoms can vary greatly.
Feeling feverish? Some potential causes of fever during pregnancy include:
- The Common Cold. You’re more likely to suffer from common viral infections like colds when pregnant. This is because your immune system undergoes a number of changes in order to protect your pint-sized fetus from being attacked. The result? A stuffy nose, lots of sneezing, and a dry cough.
- The Flu. Another common culprit behind fever in pregnancy is the flu. As with the common cold, your weakened immune system can likely be to blame if you catch this contagious respiratory infection when pregnant. In addition to fever, flu symptoms may include a stuffy nose, sore throat, muscle or body aches, fatigue, chills, body aches, and chills.
- Bacterial Infections. The common cold and flu are viral infections, but other unpleasant bacteria infections — such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney infections, listeriosis, and strep throat — can also trigger a high body temperature. More often than not, these infections require antibiotics, so be sure to talk with your OB/GYN if you suspect that you may have one.
- Food Poisoning. It’s common to get morning sickness when you’re expecting, but sometimes your nausea and low-grade fever might come from something else — like food poisoning.
Can a Fever Be Dangerous for the Fetus?
Thanks to a suppressed immune system, getting a fever is fairly common in pregnancy. In fact, research shows that roughly 20 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. experience a high temp at least once during their pregnancy — and the vast majority of them have healthy newborns!
A fever is typically not a cause for concern if it is low and short-lived. Now, if you’re dealing with a high fever (above 102 degrees F.), you may want to give your doctor a call.
While research is still ongoing, there are a few studies that have discovered links between persistent high fevers in pregnancy and:
- Miscarriage (especially in the first trimester)
- Neural tube defects (NTDs)
- Congenital heart defects
- Facial malformations (like oral cleft)
- Abdominal wall defects
Other studies have also raised concerns about prenatal fever and autism risk, with experts saying three or more fevers during pregnancy may triple the increased risk of having a little one with autism.
Although this may sound a little scary, it’s important to keep in mind that much more research is needed to confirm how fever can affect a fetus. While several studies indicate the dangers of a high temp during pregnancy, there are just as many proving that there isn’t conclusive evidence at all.
So take a deep breath, mama — everything will be A-OK!
What’s the Best Way To Treat a Fever When Expecting?
One of the best pregnancy-safe medications you can take to lower your temperature is acetaminophen (aka Tylenol). But before taking any new over-the-counter drug or supplement while pregnant, be sure to talk with your doctor first to get the go-ahead. Some meds — like aspirin and ibuprofen — are not safe to take during pregnancy.
In addition to taking a pregnancy-safe medication, here are some things you can do that may help to lower your body’s thermostat:
Take a lukewarm bath for a few minutes. Not only does this work like a charm to reduce fever, but soaking in a tub with Epsom salts will help draw out toxins to speed up the recovery process.
For an indulgent experience as you rub-a-dub-dub, we recommend our Therapeutic Bath Salts.
Keep yourself sufficiently hydrated by drinking plenty of water to help cool your body from the inside out.
Place a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead and rest.
Sleep helps your body better fight infections, so it’s of the utmost importance that you get lots of shut-eye the moment a fever strikes. Struggling to catch some zzzs? Try our Organic Sleepy Body Lotion — this dreamy formula prevents restless legs while easing aches and discomfort to promote a more restful and deeper snooze.
Dress in lightweight and breathable fabrics to keep your body cool. If you get cold or experience any shivering, wrap yourself in a light blanket.
Avoid going outside — especially if it’s hot out. Stay indoors and use a fan to help keep yourself cool.
Coming down with a fever during pregnancy can feel extremely scary for a mom-to-be. But the good news is that while a high temp can be harmful to a developing baby — it usually isn’t.
If you’re concerned about your maternal fever and how it will impact your little one, call your OB/GYN. It’s also important to reach out to your healthcare provider if your fever doesn’t start to subside after a day or two.
To help bring down your body’s personal thermostat, drink plenty of water and get lots of sleep. You can also take a soothing bath in lukewarm water using our Therapeutic Bath Salts to help ease aches, pains, and tension.
Remember, a fever is a normal physical response and a sign that your immune system is hard at work to keep you healthy. In other words, if your body temperature is a little higher than normal, don’t panic — take a deep breath, monitor your symptoms, and get some much needed rest.