Most expectant mothers are likely to have heard how having a fever while pregnant can be bad for the baby and that a high temperature can cause harm. A raised body temperature of the mother is not good for the baby, and that apparently is the same reason for telling women to avoid hot tubs when pregnant.
So, is fever in pregnancy really all that dangerous? And what can happen as a result?
Generally speaking, low grade fevers of less than 100.4 degrees (or a couple of degrees above normal) may not be worrisome and may be of no threat to the health and development of the fetus. It is the higher fevers that are usually cause for concern, particularly during the first trimester because they could hinder the development of the baby at this early stage of the gestation.
A fever higher than 101 degrees needs to be attended. Remember, if the fever is higher than 103 degrees, this could be dangerous; even lethal for the baby.
When a baby is subject to higher temperatures in the first trimester of development either by way of the maternal temperature rising either due to fever, hot tubs or saunas, or any other reason, this is known to contribute to risk of the baby developing neural defects, spina bifida and so on.
In most cases, a fever from the 14th week of gestation may not be dangerous.
Also, if the fever while pregnant is persistent or of a prolonged duration, then this may also be cause for concern as to what is causing the fever to persist over such a long duration.
With fever in pregnancy it is important to know the underlying cause of the fever. Even if the fever is not very high, it could still result in problems since the condition or the infection (such as an intrauterine one) that is causing the fever to occur in the first place could be of concern if it passes to the baby.
What is the best course of action with fever while pregnant?
Firstly watch out for fever if you’re feeling unwell or have any other symptoms of illness such as a sore throat, body ache and so on which can signal the flu, a throat infection and so on which will typically bring on a fever too.
It is important to monitor the temperature with a good quality, accurate thermometer and if it crosses the 100.4 mark, the doctor should be called promptly. Meanwhile you can try to lower the temperature in other ways – a wet, cool washcloth may help. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids, cold fluids if proffered – this can help keep the fever in control and will also help in avoiding dehydration during pregnancy.
Whereas in the regular course, it would be a simple matter to pop an ibuprofen or an aspirin to help lower a high temperature, this is not possible with fever while pregnant, because few medications are proven to be completely unsafe at this time. Any oral medication taken in pregnancy should always be checked for safety with the attending physician.