Bronchitis While Pregnant: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

(Last Updated On: July 16, 2019)

Being pregnant during cold and flu season can be stressful enough without having to worry about it turning into something else like bronchitis. Knowing the signs, symptoms and how to stay healthy can keep both mommy and baby happy and enjoy getting ready for your new bundle of joy without any unneeded issues.

What Is Bronchitis?

The bronchial tubes work to bring air into your lungs. When you have bronchitis these tubes become infected or swollen and restrict the amount of air coming in. There are two levels of bronchitis, acute and chronic.

Acute bronchitis, also known as a chest cold, is the most typical form and usually lasts a couple weeks (10-12 days) and then goes away.

Chronic bronchitis is very common in smokers and people exposed to irritants. It can last weeks, months or even years with discolored mucous, spitting up blood, and reoccurring issues.

When you have chronic bronchitis you can end up with lung damage and can require medication and further treatment.

bronchitis suffering

Bronchitis vs a Cold

Typically, you will start out with a cold and then it will evolve into bronchitis. Things may start out as a little cough, but becomes bronchitis after the cold. This is why it is important to see your doctor as soon as symptoms show up before it becomes more serious.

Bronchitis vs Pneumonia

While both are lung infections that affect your ability to breathe, pneumonia does not affect your bronchial tubes. Instead, the lungs fill with sacs of air, know as alveoli, that can cause very similar symptoms to bronchitis.

Causes

There are a few main causes to bronchitis and it is important to know what they are and how to avoid them while pregnant to keep mommy and baby happy and healthy.

Viruses

The majority of bronchitis cases come from viruses. Sadly, the virus for bronchitis is also the same as the virus for several types of cold and flu. So it can make it harder to tell the difference between the two. Bacteria can also be a cause as mucus from a cold of flu can build up and turn into bronchitis.

Breathing Irritation

If you are exposed to things like cigarette smoke, dust particles, chemical fumes and mold spores you will be more susceptible to bronchitis. You should be on the lookout for situations that expose you to these irritants, even when you aren’t pregnant.

Understand that with chronic bronchitis these irritants can make the condition far worse and can affect your babies health.

Exposure to Airborne Substances

 If you work or live near a place that exposes you to substances like ammonia, chlorine, grains and other industrial substances, can increase your risk of bronchitis.

To get a full list of substances that can bring on bronchitis, contact your doctor or look online at reputable websites.

unwell in pregnancy

Symptoms

 It is important to pay attention to your body and watch out for signs of trouble If you have had bronchitis in the past the symptoms may not be exactly the same when you are pregnant so you should not ignore signs that you are getting sick.

Signs

The most common signs of bronchitis are:

  •         Wet or continuous cough
  •         Difficulty breathing
  •         Shortness of breath
  •         Feeling like you are choking when nothing is there
  •         Low fever or a consistent increase in temperature
  •         Sore throat
  •         Chest pains/ tightness
  •         No appetite
  •         Fatigue
  •         Head and body aches
  •         Chills
  •         Mucous (yellow, green or clear in color)

Immediate attention

If you have any of the following symptoms while pregnant it is important to seek immediate medical attention from your primary doctor or an emergency room:

  •         Chest pains
  •         A fever of at least 100.4 F or 38 C
  •         Shortness of breath that isn’t improved with rest
  •         Coughing up blood

Risks To The Baby

BABY SICK risks

Chronic bronchitis can have serious repercussions on the babies health. The baby can suffer chronic respiratory tract issues as well as congenital effects.

At the first sign of issues or you have a history of chronic bronchitis, it is crucial you contact your doctor and get help quickly. Other issues than can occur include:

  •         Oxygen deprivation: Lack of oxygen to the fetus can occur when you are coughing and having trouble breathing.
  •         Cortisol exposure: A stressed out mommy releases cortisol which can cause the baby to have birth defects, brain defects, and low birth weight when the hormone gets into the placenta.
  •         Preterm labor: When you have a fever you can end up getting dehydrated. Dehydration can bring on contractions and cause preterm labor. That can have its own problems, but the fever can also cause issues like spina bifida and even death.
  •         Nutrient loss: You may experience appetite loss as a side effect of bronchitis. Lack of nutrients into you means lack of nutrients to baby and can affect your babies general health and development.
  •         Placental Abruption: Severe cases of bronchitis can cause stress to not only the baby, but the placenta as well. It can be bad enough to separate the placenta from the uterine lining and require immediate medical help.

Diagnosing

There are several different methods to diagnosing bronchitis and it is important to be honest with your doctor and make sure you are clear about what you are experiencing so the doctor can give you an accurate diagnosis.

Exam

A bronchitis diagnosis it typically started with a physical examination by your doctor. Your doctor will feel your larynx and look for redness, look for swelling in the ribs, and listen to your heart and lungs.

Tests

An x-ray can be used to diagnose bronchitis in people who aren’t pregnant, but the fetus shouldn’t be exposed to any type of radiation no matter what stage you are at in your pregnancy. So instead of an x-ray you should consider a sputum test to see if you can be treated with antibiotics, a spirometer test to rule out other illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis, and a bloodwork test to rule our any other problems.

Belly Breathing

 Taking deep, full breathes can be difficult as your pregnancy progresses and your belly gets bigger. This is why it is so important to pay attention to your health so you can tell the difference between the baby and an illness and see your doctor at the first sign of trouble. If not it can become even more difficult to breath properly and you can run into a lot of trouble.

Hormones

While pregnant, your hormone levels are increased and this can cause a short bout of bronchitis to become much longer. Rather than a couple weeks you can end up dealing with the symptoms for a month. As long as you have seen your doctor and you are gradually improving this shouldn’t be too concerning.

Risks Going Undiagnosed

If you go without a diagnosis acute bronchitis can become pneumonia and become life threatening to you and your baby. This is why it is important to keep in contact with your doctor and make sure you take the proper precautions, especially during the winter months when bronchitis is most prevalent.

Prevention

To avoid any issues to begin with it is important to take care of yourself and take the proper steps to stay healthy.

Avoid sick people

This may seem obvious, but you should avoid anyone who is sick. When you are out in public you should opt to wear a face mask to avoid picking anything up from strangers.

Stay clean

Washing your hands thoroughly and carrying hand sanitizer can greatly reduce your chances of picking up viruses and reduce your exposure to germs.

Bundle up

Because most cases of bronchitis happen in the winter months it is important to stay covered and warm to keep you healthy.

Avoid irritants

Stay away from second hand smoke, chemical fumes and other irritants that can affect your breathing and  increase your risk of bronchitis.

Build up your immunity

 Getting ahead of the game by strengthening your immune  system through getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding unhealthy habits like being around people smoking.

Treatment

Relief

In the winter months and when you first start feeling unwell it is really important to stay properly hydrated. Focus on increasing your intake of water and electrolytes and avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks.

Antibiotics

There are several safe antibiotics and steroids you can take while pregnant and there are some you should try to avoid because of the interactions they can have and the affect they can have on your baby’s health. Safe medications include:

  •         Amoxicillin
  •         Penicillin
  •         Ampicillin
  •         Clindamycin
  •         Nitrofurantoin
  •         Erythromycin

Antibiotics to avoid include sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline and trimethoprim.

Over the counter

Your doctor may recommend over the counter treatments but you should always consult them first and never just take something. For example, some medicines are okay in the first trimester than is not okay in the second or third.

If your doctor gives the all clear you can take Claritin, Tylenol, Sudafed and a few other over the counter drugs.

Home remedies

It is always better to avoid medication when you can because there can always be side effects. Some cases may only need the home remedies while other cases will require much more aggressive forms of treatment.

Ask your doctor before doing any non-prescribed treatments. So you don’t have to worry about adverse interactions you might specifically have.

Salt Water

Gargling with salt water can help you clear out some of the mucous and relief a sore throat.

Turmeric

 A natural anti-inflammatory, turmeric can help get rid of mucous and ease your sore throat.

Ginger

With its anti-inflammatory properties, the ability to settle upset stomachs and combat the common cold, ginger is a great thing to keep in your kitchen throughout the pregnancy.

Lemon and Honey

Vitamin C and flavonoids from the lemon and antiviral and antibacterial properties in honey are a great combination to combat the symptoms of bronchitis.

Steam

Hot showers, humidifiers and inhaling steam from boiling water can help as a natural decongestant and help you breath easier.

Nettie Pot

Irrigating your nasal passages will help get some of the mucous out and make it easier to breath.

Yogurt

Natural probiotics in yogurt can ease some of your symptoms and improve a respiratory tract infection.

Garlic and Onions

While they are not the most appetizing on their own, adding some raw honey can help you tolerate the taste so you can get the antiviral properties they provide.

Mustard Plasters

Mustard plasters and Vicks vapor rub are great to alleviate chest congestion.

What to avoid

Albuterol inhalers should not be used along with medications to treat bronchitis unless your doctor has given you direct permission. This is because the specific medications for bronchitis can interact with Albuterol and heighten you risks of complications in women with heart conditions and high blood pressure. This can also affect the fetus’ development overall.

By trimester

As your pregnancy progresses the treatments for bronchitis vary.

1st Trimester

The doctor typically prescribes an antibiotic to reduce inflammation from the penicillin family.

2nd Trimester

Baby safe antibiotics like cephalosporin are prescribed during the second trimester to help control your cough and get rid of mucous.

3rd Trimester

During the third trimester a doctor will not prescribe medicine but instead do an intravenous immunoglobin therapy. This is much safer for both mother and baby.

Conclusion

Sadly, the winter brings on a lot of illnesses and it is important to be prepared. And know what to do to keep you and your baby safe. Talk to your doctor and look at what you can do to make it through the cold season without any other issues.

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