Treating a cold or flu when you’re pregnant

A stuffy nose, cough and muscle ache are even more uncomfortable when you’re preggers. Find ways to ease the discomfort.

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Exhausted from looking after her 18-month-old, Janice Chong, who is 8 months pregnant with her second child, found herself falling ill frequently in the last three or four months.

“Lucas is at the age where he’s getting more confident in his movements, so he is walking and climbing everywhere,” she says.

The stay-at-home mum, who is well into her third trimester, adds that she is also dealing with backaches and swollen feet. “I have also been nursing a cold that never seems to get better, which results in me not being able to sleep well, and feeling extremely tired,” she laments.

It’s not uncommon for expectant mums to fall ill. Whether it’s a cough or the common cold, your suppressed immune system keeps your body from fighting off, or rejecting foreign bodies, which is what your baby technically is. As such, you will be more vulnerable to viruses.

Other than Panadol (paracetamol), Chong tried refrained from taking any medication. “I was able to cope with most of the symptoms ― but Panadol helped to alleviate my headache, which was important to me because I needed my concentration when looking after Lucas,” she explains. “Other than that, I try to stay away from medication, as I don’t think it is good for the baby.”

The telltale signs that you’re falling ill can include symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat or dry cough, sneezing, and perhaps even a fever ― depending on whether you’ve caught a cold or contracted influenza.

“Avoid cough mixtures that contain codeine in them. Antihistamines can be given, but the pregnant woman should check with her gynaecologist or pharmacist.”

Colds are usually milder than influenza, nor does a fever usually come with it. If you contract the flu, the symptoms are usually more severe and sudden, and include a fever, chills, headaches and muscle soreness.

Gynaecologist Dr Christopher Ng of GynaeMD Women’s and Rejuvenation Clinic, notes that if the symptoms are bad, then the expectant mum should take medication to treat the illness, so that she can recover faster.

“But avoid cough mixtures that contain codeine in them. Antihistamines can be given, but the pregnant woman should check with her gynaecologist or pharmacist,” he adds.

Dr Gordon Lim, a gynaecologist with Gordon Lim Clinic & Surgery for Women, notes that during pregnancy, antibiotics and anti-asthmatic medication should only be prescribed by a doctor.

He suggests trying mild off-the-counter medicines, such as cough drops, Decolgen and Panadol. “The ingredients in these medications are generally safe when they are not taken in excessive doses,” he explains.

Other safe ways to relieve cough and cold symptoms include taking a “high dose of vitamin C, using a saline nasal wash or spray, and getting plenty of rest,” Dr Ng says.