Having a Cold While Pregnant? A Local Physician Shares What to Do and How to Ease Your Symptoms While Keeping Your Baby Safe

Michael Straker, MD, Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clara Maass Medical Center
Michael Straker, MD, Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, NJ

Belleville, NJ - Over-the-counter remedies for the symptoms of a common cold— sneezing, coughing, congestion, a sore throat—are easy to find. But if you’re an expectant mother or a mom who is nursing, how do you find relief while being sure your medications don’t affect your baby.

Less is More

“If you can limit medications, that’s always safer and better,” says Michael Straker, MD, Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Clara Maass Medical Center. For congestion, he suggests the use of a saline nasal spray or steam from a neti pot, and plenty of fluids. For a sore throat, try gargling with salt water. Chicken soup and plenty of rest can relieve symptoms as well.

For aches, acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol, rather than products containing aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen) is safe throughout pregnancy, says Dr. Straker. The same is true for cough medicines with guaifenesin (an expectorant) or dextromethorphan (a suppressant), he says, though it’s best to consult your physician first.

Read labels carefully before you take any cold medicine, particularly for multi-symptom products, advises Dr. Straker. “People often load up on different types of cold medicine because the brand names are different, but the ingredients are the same,” he says. “You may be taking too much of a given ingredient without knowing it.” Drug labels should also list any appropriate warnings for pregnant women.

When to Call the Doctor

There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for when to call a doctor—whether your OB/GYN or primary care physician—about cold symptoms, Dr. Straker says. However, troubling signs include fever and chills, shortness of breath or an increased heart rate, and symptoms that linger more than 10 days or become more persistent. In those situations, a pregnant woman should seek the care of a doctor.

“A temperature of 100.5 or above is considered a fever, but a fever isn’t necessarily cause for concern,” he says. “It’s the body’s way of removing an infectious agent. However, if a woman has a stubborn fever that will not come down with Tylenol and increased fluids, as well as significant physical discomfort, she should contact her doctor and possibly be seen right away.”

Taking Care of You

“An expectant or new mom already has a compromised immune system because so much of her body’s energy is being used to support her baby,” Dr. Straker says. “To lessen the chances of catching cold, pregnant and nursing women should follow a balanced diet, remain active, avoid those who are sick and wash hands frequently with soap and warm water.

“In addition, the flu shot is not only safe for pregnant and nursing moms, it’s recommended,” he says. “It helps to protect mom, and mom passes those antibodies to baby.

“Any time you’re concerned, talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Straker. “He or she will walk you through whatever you’re experiencing.”

To find a primary doctor or OB/GYN at Clara Maass Medical Center, click here or call 888.724.7123.