When most of us think about immune system suppression during pregnancy, our minds often make a b-line towards worrying about the increased susceptibility to colds, the flu and various other illnesses. Because of this immunity suppression, ALL pregnant women are more susceptible to infection and illnesses, not just those with underlying medical issues. So why are the immune systems of pregnant women suppressed?
As a woman conceives a child, she introduces foreign genetic materials into her body, ie. a man’s sperm. The body’s immune system is designed to reject the presence of foreign tissue and fight off infection. Normally, the female body responds naturally to conception and begins ‘tolerating’ the fetus and her immunity diminishes significantly. Unfortunately, this ‘toleration’ or lack thereof can sometimes lead to spontaneous abortions where a woman’s body is unable to tolerate the foreign genes supplied by the baby’s father.
What is additionally unfortunate is that several studies have suggested (but have not concluded) that the use of decongestants during pregnancy could be harmful to both mother and baby, so it is best for pregnant women avoid them and focus on using more natural ways of alleviating cold and flu-like symptoms. This can sometimes be a daunting task, especially when cold and flu-like symptoms can be particularly vicious.
So, since we’re all about natural fertility and conception aids here at Make A Baby, we thought we’d put together a list of natural remedies that can be used while pregnant to alleviate cold and flu-like symptoms!
If you’re pregnant and suffering from a fever and/or really bad body or headaches, many health practitioners consider it safe to take products that contain acetaminophen – in moderation of course. Medications containing aspirin, ibuprofen (ie. Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (such as Aleve) are NOT recommended for use while pregnant. These medications can disrupt early fetal development and can very likely lead to labour complications later on.
There are quite a few plusses to sleeping with your head elevated at night. According to several experts, elevating your head during sleep just generally helps you sleep better. As it relates to having a cold, keeping your head elevated above the rest of your body can alleviate sinus tissues and help the nasal passages remain open while you sleep, allowing the mucus to drain freely into your throat. Lying completely flat while you sleep can create larger blood vessels in the nose and can promote mouth breathing, which isn’t overly pleasant for your sleeping partner to endure. Additionally, sleeping with your head elevated can reduce acid reflux and heartburn.
Got sinus congestion? Yuck. When most people think of hot packs, they envision using them to sooth sore or tight muscles, which of course is often another lovely cold and flu-like symptom you can use them for. But hot packs can also be applied to your face to relieve sinus congestion. When applied to the sinuses, the heat from the hot packs reduces swelling and loosens up the mucus that ordinarily grows thicker during a cold. Yay breathing!
This is a great, all-natural alternative to using medicated syrups and lozenges to sooth sore throats. Saltwater gargles can be made with mixing one teaspoon of salt into approximately 8 ounces of warm water. And voila! You can gargle your way to sore-throat freedom in a simple, inexpensive way.
So apparently there is more to eating chicken soup when you’re sick than the fact that it’s hot, delicious and probably the number one go-to as far as comfort foods go. Some experts suggest that it may be even more effective than your typical over-the-counter cough and cold medications! Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha conducted laboratory testing on chicken soup and its effectiveness on thwarting cold and flu-like symptoms. Although he is unsure of the specific ingredients in chicken soup that aids in the process, he has theorized that chicken soup inhibits the migration of infection fighting cells in the body, thus reducing upper respiratory cold symptoms!
So yummy! This simple tea is particularly wonderful for sore throats, but also has a relaxing, comfy quality to it. It’s not technically a tea, and is completely caffeine-free of course, so it won’t hurt the baby. On top of that, ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, lemon contains vitamin C and the honey does a great job of soothing scratchy throats. We say that’s an all-round win!
Sometimes when you’re sick, the simplest of tasks such as drinking and going to the washroom can seem completely unappealing and difficult to do. But while being sick, particularly when pregnant, it’s so important to keep both mom and baby nice and hydrated for so many reasons, including the fact that dehydration can sometimes result in uterine contractions and possible preterm labour. So drink up! Try to drink as many clear, decaffeinated liquids as often as possible.
Neti pots can be intimidating for some, but we are told it is a fairly easy process that produces great results. Basically you mix together a warm saline solution, and with the assistance of a small pot with a large spout, you irrigate your nasal passages. By breathing constantly through your mouth, your nasal passages naturally close and the solution is meant to flow in one nostril and out the other. This process is apparently not dangerous at all, and can be repeated several times a day if you are severely congested. If you are still hesitant, some alternatives to the neti pot include inhaling deeply over a bowl of boiling water, or using saline nasal sprays (but make sure you don’t use the medicated ones).
There are several spices used in cooking that not only help to clear up nasal passages but also have anti-viral properties that will help you get back on your feet sooner. Some of these spices include cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. And garlic, although technically not a spice, is known to carry powerful virus-fighting compounds that can help as well.
So if you’re pregnant, you should be already rocking a prenatal vitamin, which helps to offset your suppressed immunity with lots of vitamin and mineral support. But make sure you’re also packing in as many nutrient-rich foods as well. Vitamin C, which helps to boost your immune system, can be found in such foods as melon, citrus, red cabbage, tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli and bell peppers. Some dietary sources of zinc, which helps to fight off germs, can be found in oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, cooked oysters, turkey, beef, pork and wheat germ.
This is a bit of a no-brainer. Humidifiers keep the air around you moist as you sleep, making it easier for you to breathe, especially while sick. Pediatricians also recommend them for babies, so purchasing one is instantly legitimized!