Knowing how to effectively treat ailments while pregnant without compromising the health of your baby can be a source of worry for many moms.
Put your mind at ease with our pregnancy medication safety tips and advice:
Colds and flu
Common colds and flu are viral infections and are usually self-limiting, says Dr Nontando Mothibe, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at Life Dalview Hospital. Once you develop flu symptoms:
- Get plenty of rest, stay home and keep warm
- Drink lots of fluids to replace water lost through sweating
- Drink fresh orange juice, which contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps to protect your cells and boosts your immunity
- Use saline drops or sprays for nasal congestion
- Moisten your air passages by using a humidifier or covering your head with a towel as you breathe in the steam from a bowl of hot water
- Take paracetamol for a temperature or general aches and pains, but avoid over-the-counter cold and flu medication.
- There are also a number of homoeopathic medications that are safe to use during pregnancy – especially at the onset of symptoms, says registered homeopath Dr Jaci Schultz.
- For flu with a fever, aching body, sore throat and a bit of extra mucus, Oscillococcinum works wonders. Dissolve one vial of granules in your mouth three times a day.
- For a postnasal drip resulting in an intermittent cough with phlegm, use Pulsatilla/Stannum Met 6ch. Take one dose every three to four hours.
- Belladonna 30ch is great for a fever. Take one dose every two to four hours until your temperature returns to normal.
- For a runny nose that is clear and mostly watery, try Nat Mur 6ch. Take one dose every three to four hours.
Tonsillitis is a bacterial infection and requires medical treatment with antibiotics and painkillers, explains Dr Mothibe. Left untreated, complications can arise, which is why you need to see a doctor as soon as you develop symptoms.
You can also try:
- Gargling with warm salt water to soothe your throat and help bring down the swelling
- Elevating your head with an extra pillow to avoid obstruction of your air passages while sleeping.
- Registered homeopath Dr Sheetal Daya suggests gargling with colloidal silver and then swallowing it, which will not only help to relieve your sore throat and boost your immunity, but also has antibacterial properties.
- For sore throats that are worse when eating or drinking, try remedies such as Arsenicum Album, Belladonna, Merc Sol and Nitricum Acidum.
- When pain extends to your ears as you swallow, Nux Vomica or Phytolacca could be effective.
- Hyoscyamus Lac and Stramonium can both be helpful when you’re battling to swallow because of the pain, while Lachesis can assist when there’s a sensation of swelling in the throat.
- You can also discuss the option of homeopathic antibiotics with your homeopath.
Headaches tend to increase during pregnancy, says Dr Mothibe. “This is thought to be due to the increase of blood volume in the body and dilation of blood vessels caused by increased progesterone – especially during the first trimester. Other causes include stress, lack of sleep, anaemia, low blood glucose levels, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, pregnancy-induced fatigue and sinus congestion.”
- If your headache is accompanied by other flu symptoms, take paracetamol.
- Increase your fluid intake and rest.
- Find measures to cope with or eliminate stress, such as breathing exercises and prenatal yoga classes.
- Decrease your caffeine intake slowly so your body has time to adjust.
- Maintain your blood glucose levels by eating regularly and including healthy snacks.
Dr Schultz advises the following:
- For sinus congestion with a headache, try Sinusan Nasal Spray. Spray once in each nostril three times a day. It doesn’t have any rebound effects like most other nasal sprays and will get the specific medications right up the nasal passages to where the mucus and inflammation are.
- Belladonna 30ch works well for pounding headaches. Take one dose every three to four hours until the pain lifts.
- Try Bryonia 30ch for headaches that are worse with movement. Take one dose every three to four hours.
There are many types of coughs with varying causes – viral, bacterial or even asthma-induced, explains Dr Mogi Lingham, a gynaecologist and obstetrician at Lakeview Hospital. Treatment varies according to the origin of the cough, but there are a number of safe self-help options:
- Chat to your pharmacist or healthcare provider about an expectorant if you have a wet cough.
- A dry cough is best treated with an antitussive cough suppressant, but seek the advice of your healthcare provider before taking one.
- Try drinking hot water with lemon and honey, sucking throat lozenges, steaming, propping yourself up on pillows whenever you lie down and avoiding foods that may precipitate a cough like nuts and spices.
- Always consult your doctor if your cough persists for longer than three to four days – especially if you have a fever, as you may need an antibiotic.
Dr Daya suggests the following:
- Try relieving a cough or irritated chest by drinking fresh ginger boiled in water and adding turmeric and honey.
- For coughs that are worse when lying down, try remedies such as Drosera, Kali Carbinocum, Rumex and Sanguinaria.
- For wet coughs with rattling mucus in your chest, Antimonium Tart is a good option.
- For a dry, barking cough that may be croup, try Aconite, Hepar Sulphur and Spongia.
- Homeopathic cough mixtures that are safe to take in pregnancy include Stodal, Jutussin and Nectadyn.
When to see your doctor
- A severe headache doesn’t respond to paracetamol or persists for more than four hours
- Your headache is accompanied by dizziness, blurred vision, severe heartburn or persistent vomiting (these are all symptoms of preeclampsia)
- You suffer from nose bleeds
- You have difficulty breathing or experience shortness of breath
- You have pain or pressure in your chest or abdomen
- A high fever doesn’t respond to paracetamol
- Flu symptoms get worse or persist for longer than five to seven days.
A freelance journalist and content writer with a passion for people and health. She has worked in the magazine industry for many years and is a regular contributor to Living and Loving.