When you're pregnant, your immune system is slightly suppressed. This is necessary to stop you from rejecting the baby, who is genetically half the father's! This means that you may be slightly more susceptible to common problems such as colds, coughs, a sore throat, or food poisoning, and that the illness may last longer.
Most women get a cough or cold at some stage during their pregnancy. However, you should avoid taking cold medications since these can contain ingredients that are not safe in pregnancy, especially during the first three months (see Cold remedies). Steam inhalations can ease congestion and hot honey drinks help to soothe a sore throat. Saline nasal sprays can also help relieve congestion.
If you get the flu during pregnancy, call your doctor to get advice or make an appointment. Drink plenty of liquids and get plenty of rest. Don't take any flu or cold medications without talking to your doctor first. Flu complications can include dehydration and pneumonia, and complications are more common in pregnant women. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all pregnant women should get flu vaccinations. However, the CDC says they should not get the nasal-spray flu vaccine, which is not approved for pregnant women.
A severe episode of food poisoning can cause problems for you and your baby and could trigger an early miscarriage, so it's vital to practice good kitchen hygiene (see Dietary precautions). If you do develop food poisoning or a stomach upset, try to drink plenty of fluids, and if it continues for more than 24 hours, see your doctor (see also Gastroenteritis).
If you have an abnormal discharge, talk to your doctor since this may be yeast (candidiasis), which is common in pregnancy. A swab may be taken to confirm the diagnosis, and an appropriate local antifungal treatment prescribed . Eating natural yogurt may help restore the bacterial balance in your vagina. Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight clothing is also recommended.
Many pregnant women get urinary infections because the hormone progesterone relaxes all of the smooth muscle, allowing the bacteria that normally live in your vagina to travel up the urethra (the tube that leads to the bladder) where they may cause an infection. The symptoms of a urinary infection may be slightly different in pregnancy. You may have the classic symptoms of burning when urinating and frequent passing of urine, or you may have different symptoms such as back pain, lower abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting. These are usually easily treated with antibiotics, most of which are safe in pregnancy.
Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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