Why Do You Get Sick More Often When You Are Pregnant?

Treating and Avoiding Colds During Pregnancy

Eating a balanced diet is important for avoiding colds and flu during pregnancy.
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If you are pregnant, there's a good chance you have noticed that you are sick more often than you were before you got pregnant. This is actually normal and not something to be overly concerned about in most cases. If your symptoms are not typical of common illnesses like colds and other respiratory infections, talk to your healthcare provider to be sure there is not something more serious happening.

Here, we focus on some common questions from readers. Hopefully, it will help alleviate some of your concerns and point you in the right direction for getting relief from your symptoms.

Q: I seem to be getting more colds than normal since I have been pregnant. Why is that?

A: Women who are pregnant tend to get more colds than their non-pregnant counterparts. This is mostly due to the fact that the immune system is slightly less effective during pregnancy. The body has to lower its defenses to make sure that the baby is not rejected. Unfortunately, this allows pregnant women to be more susceptible to illnesses than they would be otherwise.

Q: What cold medications can I take while pregnant?

A: If you are pregnant and do get a cold, do not take any over-the-counter cold or cough medications without checking with your ob/gyn or practitioner. Most antihistamines, decongestants and cough medicines should not be taken during pregnancy unless instructed to do so by the practitioner.

They are usually not tested in pregnant women and may have dangerous side effects for the baby. In most cases, it is fine to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) for minor aches and pains. Women should avoid Advil (ibuprofen) and aspirin when pregnant unless instructed to take one by their practitioner.

Q: I was diagnosed with sinusitis and my doctor prescribed an antibiotic. Is it safe to take when I am pregnant?

A: Many antibiotics are safe to take during pregnancy, but some are not. If you are not sure, check with your practitioner. The most important thing to do is to follow the instructions for taking the medicine and finish it all. You should never take leftover antibiotics from a past illness or from someone else.

Q: What can I do to prevent getting a cold or the flu while I am pregnant?

A: The advice for avoiding colds and the flu when pregnant is not all that different than when you are not pregnant. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and washing your hands frequently are the best ways to minimize your chances of catching a cold or the flu. Most practitioners will also prescribe or recommend a prenatal vitamin for pregnant women to supplement the normal diet. If you are a smoker, you should quit. It will boost your immune system and be better for your baby.

Flu shots are also very important for pregnant women. When you are pregnant, you are at high risk for complications from the flu which can affect both you and your unborn baby. Getting a flu shot during pregnancy can protect you from the flu and can protect your child for up to six months after she is born.

Q: What should I do if I get a cold or the flu while I am pregnant?

A: It is not possible to avoid colds and the flu completely because they are common. If you do come down with one of these illnesses, some of these tips may help.

  • Get extra rest
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids; this is even more important when you are pregnant
  • Try saline nasal sprays or steam inhalation for congestion
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Drinking hot water with honey and lemon may help soothe a sore or irritated throat
  • Notify your healthcare provider if your symptoms seem especially severe or last for more than a week; you may have developed a secondary infection


    "Colds and Pregnancy." The Cleveland Clinic Health Information Center 31 Oct 06. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. 22 Aug 07.

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