Pregnancy, Your Immune System
and Getting Sick

During pregnancy, your immune system can face certain challenges...

Childbirth is known as the miracle of life, but when you’re pregnant, it doesn’t always feel like such a miracle. Unfortunately, pregnant women don’t just have to deal with morning sickness, backaches, swollen ankles, cravings, and fatigue. Pregnancy can also lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to ailments like the flu and the common cold.

While a suppressed immune system doesn’t seem like a good thing, it actually helps your baby survive in your uterus. A fetus is like a foreign object that your body could have a semi-allergic reaction to if your immune system was running at full speed. Your body lowers its defenses during pregnancy so that it doesn’t assault the baby as a foreign object inside you.

Pretty amazing, right?

Still, getting sick while pregnant is no fun, and some illnesses could potentially harm your developing baby. Below is some information on the state of your immune system both during and after pregnancy, and steps you can take to safely boost your immune system while pregnant.

What Are Some Common Immune System Problems When Pregnant?

While it's fair to say that pregnancy has an effect on a woman's immune system, it's not accurate to claim that pregnancy makes a woman vulnerable to all illnesses. In fact, one study demonstrated that while pregnancy can make women more susceptible to viral illnesses such as malaria, pregnant women are conversely more resistant to other viruses such as HIV.

Much more research needs to be done to understand how exactly a woman's immune system changes during pregnancy, but in the meantime, it's better to be safe than sorry.

How To Boost Immune System When Pregnant

Many over-the-counter drugs for colds and flus are not recommended for pregnant women unless they’ve been specifically cleared by a doctor.

Fortunately, there are ways to safely and naturally boost your immune system (or manage symptoms if you happen to get sick) while pregnant or postpartum to protect your health and that of your baby. These health tips include:

  • Eat Well. You can naturally boost your immune system by eating a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables and protein, and low in sugar and other refined carbohydrates. Eating a balanced diet (particularly fruits and vegetables) can also speed up your recovery should you get sick by supporting your immune system with essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Stay Hydrated. Staying hydrated is also important in order to prevent illness and manage the symptoms if you do get sick. Our bodies are mostly water, so we need water for our immune systems to run effectively. Other sources can also help with hydration, but avoid caffeinated beverages and drinks high in sugar.

  • Get Plenty of Rest. It may be easier said than done, but one of the most effective ways to boost your immune system naturally is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Your body is working overtime to keep you going and nurture a growing baby at the same time, and plenty of sleep is integral to staying healthy.
  • Take Prenatal Vitamins. Pregnant women have special dietary needs to support a growing baby. These needs can be hard to meet, especially since you have to be extra careful with your diet. One solution to boost your immune system, as well as your overall health, is to take prenatal vitamins. Talk to your doctor about which ones to take.

  • Try Saline Solutions. Saline and basic warm salt water mixtures (a teaspoon of salt will do) are useful for treating a host of symptoms. Gargling can reduce pain and swelling in a sore throat, while nasal sprays can alleviate nasal congestion. Avoid medicated sprays unless your doctor gives you the go-ahead.

  • Use a Humidifier. Investing in a humidifier can be a great way to alleviate cold symptoms such as dried out nasal cavities since humidifiers keep the air pleasantly moist. Alternatively, if you don’t have access to a humidifier, you can fill up a bowl of water and leave it in your room.

A Mother’s Immune System After Pregnancy

Unfortunately, your immune system woes aren’t over upon giving birth. It takes some time for hormone levels to return to normal after birth, particularly for breastfeeding mothers.

In short, having a baby can have a dramatic effect on your immune system, both during and after pregnancy. Fortunately, taking certain steps can help keep you and baby safe and healthy such as proper nutrition, rest and certain natural remedies.

Of course, if you have any concerns, your doctor is just a phone call away. The compassionate Gainesville maternity care team at All About Women is here for you, so give us a call or schedule an appointment if you need advice.