Can a Fever During Pregnancy Harm My Baby?

Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, MD on January 11, 2018Written by Mekeisha Madden Toby

Are you pregnant with a fever? If so, you’re naturally going to worry if your baby will be okay.

But before you panic, take a deep breath. Call your doctor and ask if you should take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to lower the fever.

The next important step is uncovering the cause of the fever. A fever during pregnancy is often a symptom of an underlying condition that could potentially be harmful to your growing baby.

How will a fever affect my baby?

If an expectant mother’s body temperature goes from 98.6 degrees to a fever, it’s a sign that she is fighting an infection. That’s why it’s essential to seek treatment right away.

A new study done on animal embryos does show a link between fever early in pregnancy and an increased risk of heart and jaw defects at birth. Further research is needed to establish whether fever itself — not the infection causing it — increases the risk of birth defects in humans.

If you are in your first trimester and have a fever higher than 102 degrees, be sure to seek treatment right away. This may help prevent short- and long-term complications for your developing baby.

Why am I running a fever?

Fevers are often caused by urinary tract infections and respiratory viruses, but other infections could also be to blame.

Common causes of a fever during pregnancy include:

What symptoms usually accompany a fever?

Expecting mothers should pay attention to and tell their doctors about symptoms accompanying a fever. These include:

  • shortness of breath
  • back pain
  • chills
  • abdominal pain
  • neck stiffness

Is it food poisoning?

Food poisoning could also be the culprit if you have a fever. Food poisoning is usually caused by viruses, or, less often, bacteria (or their toxins).

If this is the case, you’ll likely also experience abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Diarrhea and vomiting are especially problematic during a pregnancy because they can cause dehydration, contractions, and preterm labor.

Vital electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea must be replenished. In some cases, dehydration can be so severe that blood pressure becomes unstable and hospitalization is required.

If you suspect that you may have food poisoning, contact your doctor.

What if my fever goes away on its own?

Even if moms-to-be think they’re fine after a fever subsides, it’s always best to play it safe and see your doctor anyway.

Fevers during pregnancy are never normal, so an exam is always recommended. Luckily, if the fever was caused by a viral illness, hydration and Tylenol are usually enough for recovery.

But if the cause is bacterial, an antibiotic is often needed.

Pregnant women should not take aspirin or ibuprofen.

The most important thing is to see your doctor for proper treatment.

Do I have a fever?

For adults, a temperature taken orally that is higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever. The same goes for an ear or rectal temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

The best way to try to avoid a fever is to wash your hands often, to protect yourself from catching a cold or flu that could lead to a fever.

Stay away from sick people, when possible, and get a flu shot, unless you have an allergy to egg protein or you’ve ever experienced an allergic reaction to a flu vaccination in the past. Nasal spray vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women.

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