Fevers are common for everyone but pose more risk while you’re expecting.
In fact, fevers are one of the most frequent reasons for emergency room visits during pregnancy. Since they’re linked to a heightened risk for birth defects and autism, monitoring your temperature is important.
Some doctors even say the risk of fevers during pregnancy needs more public awareness.
In this guide, you’ll learn why you might be pregnant with a fever and what you should do to treat it.
What Is a Pregnant Fever?
Fever is a raised body temperature. Many people use the term “fever” to describe when they’re feeling too hot or sweaty. But to determine if you actually have a fever, you need to use a thermometer to take your temperature.
A fever may not be a constant temperature. For example, your temperature may be elevated and return to normal, going back and forth (intermittent fever). Your fever may also vary with different raised temperatures throughout the day or for several days (remittent fever).
In general, fevers are usually a sign that your body is fighting an infection. Typically, an elevated temperature isn’t a serious cause for worry unless it’s too high or persists. During pregnancy though, a fever presents more risks. If you’re pregnant with a fever, you should be more cautious and monitor your condition. A fever can last as long as the illness or infection that caused it.
Unfortunately, it might be easier to get a fever during pregnancy. As your body goes through changes, your immune system weakens and becomes more susceptible to illnesses. For example, since you’re more likely to get the flu, you’re more likely to get a fever from it.
Pregnant Fever Symptoms
Keep in mind that fever is a symptom of something else, like an illness or infection.
The only way to know if you have a fever is to use a thermometer to check your temperature. Normal ranges depend on which body part you’re using a thermometer. A fever is considered:
- 99.3F (37.4C) and above if taken from the armpit or forehead
- 100.4F (38C) and above if taken by mouth
- 101F (38.3C) if taken by ear or rectum
- *Note that fever ranges are different for children
Without a thermometer, you can’t conclusively know if you have a fever, but other signs may hint at it. Other symptoms of a pregnant fever include:
- Forehead feeling hot to the touch
- Chills or shivering
- Stiff neck
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate or breathing
- Cognitive changes, like confusion
How to Take Your Temperature
The first step to taking your temperature is making sure you have a reliable and accurate thermometer. A low-quality device can produce inaccurate and useless readings, possibly affecting your health.
For accurate readings, we recommend using the DuoSmart Ear & Forehead Thermometer. This device has a non-contact mode, making it perfect for fussy children as well as adults. The 1-second readings provide quick results with tested accuracy of ±0.2 Celsius/±0.4 Fahrenheit. Suitable for at-home or clinical use, the DuoSmart thermometer is easy to use with the option to store data on the connecting app.
Here’s how to take your temperature using the DuoSmart thermometer:
- Pop off the top cap to take temperature by ear
- Press the on button
- Gently place the thermometer in the ear
- Wait for reading
- Remove thermometer and read temperature
- Press off button
- Clean probe tip and place cap back on for next use
Early Pregnancy Fever
Some people feel they have an early pregnancy fever when, in reality, they’re just feeling warmer from hormonal changes. For example, experiencing a hot flash doesn’t necessarily mean you have a fever.
If you’ve taken your temperature and confirmed an early pregnancy fever, it’s concerning because it could be a risk to your baby if left unmanaged. A fever in the first trimester may raise your baby’s risk for certain defects, like congenital heart defects, cleft lip, and cleft palate.
Taking folic acid might help buffer this effect though. Consider this: Fever appears to raise the risk for neural tube defects. But those who had a fever during early pregnancy and who took 400mcg of folic acid didn’t have an increased risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While fevers heighten the risk of defects, don’t panic! Fevers are common during pregnancy and can typically be controlled.
Second & Third Trimester Pregnant Fever
A fever when pregnant in the second or third trimester also may pose risks. One study found that having one fever in the second trimester may increase the risk of autism by 40%. While this is worrisome, keep in mind that the overall risk is low. Fevers are common during pregnancy and most mothers who experience them give birth to healthy babies. Still, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any case of a raised temperature.
What Causes a Pregnant Fever?
If you have a fever when pregnant, you should know that it’s a symptom of an illness or infection. That may include:
- The common cold
- COVID-19 virus
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Kidney infection
- Throat infection
Treatment for Fever While Pregnant
If you’re pregnant with a fever, you should contact your doctor. In many cases of a low-grade fever, your doctor will tell you to monitor your fever and may suggest:
- Taking acetaminophen
- Placing a cold washcloth on your forehead
- Staying hydrated
High-grade fevers are more urgent and may need medical attention.
Some pregnancies, like high-risk cases, may require medical assessment—so make sure to get specific instructions from your doctor. Take extra caution if you have a fever and:
- You have health risks or a chronic condition, like diabetes
- You’re noticing other symptoms alongside the fever (like kidney infection)
- You’re dehydrated
- Your fever returns more than once every 3 weeks
- You’re also experiencing vaginal changes, like increased discharge or odor
Making your doctor aware of your fever is important for another reason: You may need to treat the underlying illness. While illnesses like the flu may need to run its course, other infections that cause fever need medical treatment, like antibiotics.
During pregnancy, you’re probably afraid to take over-the-counter medications—and with good reason. Many medications you may use in daily life can pose risks during pregnancy. So then what can you use to control a fever when pregnant? Many doctors recommend taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) to manage raised temperatures. You should avoid taking other over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen, and aspirin. You should also stay away from herbal remedies unless given the okay by your doctor.
Will Being Pregnant with Fever Hurt My Baby?
Most women who experience a fever during pregnancy give birth to healthy babies. Still, fevers pose a risk to your baby.
Women who reported fever were more likely to have a baby with a neural tube defect, according to the CDC. According to research, it also raises the risk of autism. A 2021 study found that fever during pregnancy can be a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders.
Researchers used to be unsure what caused the problems associated with fever. Does fever directly cause defects? Or is the illness that created the fever responsible? More recently though, researchers were able to nail down that the fever itself may be responsible for some defects.
For example, congenital heart defects occur in 1% of births. However, only 15% of those can be explained by genetic mutation. So what causes the other 85% of cases? A portion may be explained by fever—which is good news because fever-associated defects can be prevented.
Preventing Pregnant Fever
The best way to prevent a pregnant fever is to prevent infection. Since fever can occur when the body is fighting off an illness, avoid getting sick—both from viral illnesses (i.e. the common cold) and from other sources (ex. food poisoning).
- Wash hands frequently, especially before touching food
- Wipe down frequently touched surfaces, like phones, tables, remotes, etc.
- Keep distance from sick family members
- Consider getting the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccination to prevent severity of illness
- Avoid uncooked meat, including fish
- Avoid eating deli lunch meat (unless microwaved- read: Lunch Meat and Pregnancy: Is It Safe? Precautions + Hacks).
Summary: Pregnant with Fever
Being pregnant with a fever is common. Although most people who have fevers give birth to healthy babies, it’s still a cause for concern. Always contact your doctor about fever and follow their recommendations. Tylenol is often suggested to lower a fever. Fevers that are too high, last too long, or accompany other symptoms may require medical attention. People with high-risk pregnancies also may need additional monitoring. Since fever is a symptom of an illness or infection, it’s important to advise your doctor.
P.S. Take your temperature easily with the DuoSmart Ear & Forehead Thermometer! It’s non-contact and data storage options make it suitable for the whole family!