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Treating a Cold During Pregnancy

Taylor Hengen Newman

I had a regularly-scheduled OB appointment last Friday, during which I mentioned that my throat was starting to hurt. I’d been feeling funky and run-down in general, but that's been the case since the beginning of this pregnancy, so I didn’t jump to any conclusions about actually getting sick. At the most, I thought I might be reacting to the cedar pollen that temporarily takes down the majority of the Austin population each winter; I’ve never had a seasonal allergy problem myself, but those around me had been suffering for several weeks, at least. In fact, I’d kept Kaspar home from school last Monday thinking he had pink-eye, but when I brought him in to the pediatrician – something I probably should have had Aaron do, in retrospect – I was told it was just the cedar rearing its head. By Friday, I brushed off my own sore throat as no big deal, but my voice was beginning to go, which is why I brought it up with my doc. (As in, “Sorry I sound kind of funny; my throat’s been hurting a bit. I think it’s just the cedar.”) She took a quick look anyway and said it looked okay – it was pink, not red, and there was no sign of infection. She said to call if my temperature rose, or if my throat started looking bright red or developed white patches.

By that night – these things always happen on the weekend, right? – every swallow was a world of pain. I called the off-hours line for my doctor, and, an hour later, spoke with an on-call nurse. By that point, I’d also posed the question on Facebook as to whether this was a normal cedar thing, and had pretty much diagnosed myself, via the responses, with strep throat. The nurse, however, said that since I’d just had my throat looked at, and since Aaron wasn’t seeing any redness or patches (I’d asked him to look with a flashlight), she didn’t think I needed to go to urgent care just yet. She said I could very well have a virus, that I should drink fluids, rest, and – if my temperature went up at all – take Tylenol and call her back.

First trimester mamas aren't supposed to take much of anything beyond Tylenol, and that's for elevated temps only. Now, you all know I’m a power-of-prevention, all-natural type, but I’ve been sucking up sore throats, headaches, congestion, and coughing for six days and counting, and, to be honest, I’m dreaming of the hard stuff. (What I wouldn’t do for some Theraflu right now…) My temperature’s gone up to 100 degrees twice – not enough to be of concern to the doc, but enough for her to give me the go-ahead on the Tylenol, which provided near-immediate and oh-so-welcome relief each time. But I’ve mostly just been suffering through. Pile this mountain of symptoms on top of the standard daily dose of baby nausea, too, then add a toddler’s constant needs to the mix, and this is not a fun scene for mama.

You know what, though? Mamas are tough. I can take some pain in the name of baby’s well-being, which of course is my primary concern. I went back to the doctor after the weekend to confirm this is just a bad cold, and – although I’m dedicated to having a Fear Free Pregnancy this time around (I know all about pregnancy’s worry-traps, and I'm refusing to get sucked in!) – I asked if I might get a peek at the baby to make sure it’s doing all right. It’s hard to imagine feeling like absolute sh*t will have no effect on my fetus, but there the little bug was on the ultrasound screen, bopping away in its bubble, kicking its tiny legs.

This was reassuring, but I’ll admit my awareness that medication is off-limits because this is such a crucial time for the baby’s development, and knowing that fevers are, likewise, bad news for baby – a recent study even linked fever in pregnancy to higher rates of autism – has made me extra concerned about my own well-being for the baby’s sake. Feeling really sick is not only not very fun, but also a little unsettling right now, for these reasons. Nevertheless, my doctor assured me that the baby’s a-okay. And Aaron keeps reminding me that there are billions of people on the planet; there’s no way all of their moms made it through pregnancy without coming down with some nasty colds.

He’s right, of course. Pregnancy compromises the immune system, so not only is it easier to catch germy stuff when we’re knocked up (I'm definitey not the first woman in the history of humanity to get sick at nine weeks pregnant) but it takes a lot longer to recover once we’re down. Which probably explains why today – finally – is the first since last Friday that I’m feeling a little bit better. A little. Thank goodness. I’m still taking it easy – I’ve been seriously slacking on work, but I’m not going to try to make up for lost time just yet – so here’s to another day of yoga pants, tea, Tom Yum Soup and Netflix. A little depressing at this point, but I know I’ll be back in the saddle soon enough. (I’ve been watching Toddlers and Tiaras, people… I don’t even know who I am anymore!)

So let’s commiserate! Were you/have you been sick while pregnant? What’d you have? How’d you cope? Did it have any impact on your baby? If you’re pregnant now, are you as paranoid as I’m about to be around sneezing, sniffly people? How do you keep yourself well during cold and flu season when you’ve got a bun in the oven?