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Jennifer L.W. Fink
Registered Nurse

Fever During Pregnancy

Forehead feeling hot? Here's what you need to know about treating a fever when you're expecting.

Pregnancy is hard enough without a fever to make you miserable—but when your temperature shoots up, it's important to know what remedies are safe to take and what warning signs to look out for.

What is fever during pregnancy?

When you get a fever during pregnancy, you'll have the same normal signs—high temperature, sweating, shivering, headache, muscle aches, dehydration and fatigue. There’s a theory that an increased core temperature, whether from a fever or a dip in the hot tub, can cause neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. In theory, high temps at a certain point very, very early in pregnancy (we’re talking in the first five to six weeks after conception) could cause the tube to form incorrectly. But that’s just a theory; it’s never been proven. Lots of women have fevers throughout their pregnancies, and their babies turn out just fine.

What could be causing my fever during pregnancy?

When you're pregnant, your immune system is doing double duty trying to protect both you and baby, so you may be more susceptible to colds and fevers during pregnancy.

When should I go to the doctor with my fever during pregnancy?

If your fever doesn't go away in 24 to 36 hours, you should see your doctor. Also, you should go to the doctor if you experience any of these signs with your fever: abdominal pain, nausea, contractions or a rash. Your fever could be a symptom for other conditions like cytolomegalovirus, flu, cold, food poisoning, HIV/AIDS, IBD, syphilis,  toxoplasmosis or varicella.

What should I do to treat my fever during pregnancy?

It’s perfectly okay to take  acetaminophen (Tylenol) while you’re pregnant. (If you’re worried about taking Tylenol while pregnant, remember this: If your baby was born today and he had a fever, the doctors and nurses would give him Tylenol. Plus, your liver will metabolize the medicine, so he’ll only get a wee bit of it.) Make sure you’re taking it according to the dosage instructions on the package, and run it past your doctor if you’re unsure of how much to take.

Stay away from ibuprofen (Advil), though. Most docs advise pregnant women to avoid NSAIDs such as ibuprofen altogether because they can affect the baby’s cardiovascular system later in pregnancy. 

If you’re trying to stay away from taking even Tylenol—or you want to help your body temp drop—try a lukewarm bath or use a cool cloth on your head.

Updated December 2016

Plus, more from The Bump:

Are viruses a danger to my unborn baby?

How can I avoid getting a cold or the flu while pregnant? 

How to keep baby (and you) cold- and flu-free

PHOTO: Getty Images