Pneumonia in Pregnancy – Causes, Signs and Treatment

A woman coughing

Sometimes a small cold or a cough can lead to a very serious illness such as pneumonia if not treated immediately. Pregnant women can occasionally contract pneumonia due to a variety of factors. If you are pregnant, the best thing to do is to take proper rest, get exercise and avoid contact with those who have a cold or a cough.

What is Pneumonia?

 Pneumonia

It is a type of lung infection that is often a severe result of a cough or cold which gradually spreads to the lungs. If you are pregnant and you develop pneumonia, it is called ‘maternal pneumonia’.

Causes of Pneumonia during Pregnancy

Maternal pneumonia can occur due to a number of reasons. Here are a few for your easy reference

  • A viral or bacterial infection such as cold or a cough
  • Chickenpox or varicella
  • Influenza
  • Respiratory distress syndrome
  • Suppressed immune system leading to susceptibility to pneumonia

Symptoms of Pneumonia during Pregnancy

Pneumonia primarily starts off with flu-like symptoms and hence sometimes it is difficult to identify it, to begin with. If conditions like a headache, cold and chest pain worsen, it could potentially be pneumonia.

Here are a few symptoms which can indicate pneumonia

How does Pneumonia Get Transmitted during Pregnancy?

Pneumonia can spread in many ways. The bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia primarily are air-borne which are transmitted by sneezing or coughing without covering your mouth. Blood can also be a carrier of the infection, and this is fairly common to contract after birth.

Common Types of Pneumonia during Pregnancy

There are several types of pneumonia that one can get, and they are classified on the basis of their origin.

1. Bacterial Pneumonia

This one originates from a bacteria carried by someone and is the most common one. The bacteria that cause this include Haemophilus influenza, Streptococcus pneumonia, mycoplasma pneumonia

2. Viral Pneumonia

The viral one can be due to respiratory infections like influenza, varicella or acute respiratory syndrome which can be threatening to pregnant women

3. Fungal Pneumonia

This type of pneumonia is very uncommon, and it is primarily due to a fungal called ‘coccidioidomycosis’, and it can happen in the third trimester. It can affect immunity and stimulate effect on progesterone in the affected women.

Who are at Risk of Developing Pneumonia during Pregnancy?

If you are pregnant, your body is already undergoing a lot of changes and a lot of energy is spent on nourishing the baby. Hence the immune system of a pregnant woman is a bit weak increasing the changes of pregnancy.

Apart from this, here are a few other risk factors

  • Smoking
  • If you are anaemic
  • If you are chronically ill
  • If you have asthma
  • If you work with young children who are also likely carriers.

Complications of Maternal Pneumonia

If you are carrying, you may be wondering can pneumonia affect pregnancy?’. There are several dangers both to the mother and baby if the woman gets pneumonia.

A few of them for the mother is

  • Dropping levels of oxygen due to congestion can lead to a condition called ‘empyema’ where fluids can amass around the lungs.
  • The infection can spread from the lungs to the other organs.
  • It can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Some complications for the baby may be:-

  • Low birth weight
  • Lung or respiratory failure
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature delivery/ birth

How is Pneumonia Diagnosed?

If your cough or cold persists and you experience severe chest pain, the first step is to call the doctor. A doctor will then diagnose maternal pneumonia by using chest x-rays, listening to your breathing and also collecting a sputum sample (spit or phlegm). The doctor may reference your medical history before making the prognosis.

Treatment of Pneumonia for Pregnant Women

There are several techniques of infection management of pneumonia during pregnancy.

  • If it is bacterial pneumonia is diagnosed a doctor can prescribe antibiotics which need to be taken over a course.
  • Painkillers or over the counter pain relievers may be prescribed by the doc to relieve congestion and fever. This is usually acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Proper rest and good nutrition is also recommended.
  • Finally, since the body will be dehydrated, it is advisable to have lots of liquids in the form of water, juice or milk.

How can you Prevent Pneumonia during Pregnancy?

The most effective way to avoid risks of pneumonia during pregnancy is by avoiding anyone who has the flu or any other infection in addition to maintaining good hygiene. Pregnant women especially need to get a full night sleep, good nutrition and wash their hands regularly to avoid contracting pneumonia.

Effective Natural Remedies for Maternal Pnuemonia

  1. Honey

A fusion of honey and warm water can be consumed daily to help symptoms subside. Honey is full of antibacterial, antifungal medicinal properties and is used for various treatments.

  1. Camphor

2-3 drops of camphor oil can be added either to jojoba or olive oil and rub gently on the chest and back. It is a decongestant which will do wonders to get rid of the phlegm.

  1. Dandelion Tea

The roots are used to treat ailments & have a variety of health benefits. It is anti-inflammatory in nature. It can be made into a hot tea with turmeric and honey and consumed daily.

  1. Turmeric

The greatest remedy in Indian household for a variety of ailments is turmeric. It has antiseptic, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties and can be consumed with warm milk at night to reduce congestion.

  1. Garlic

This is the best antibiotic readily available in your kitchen for a cough and cold. It can reduce chest pain as it has anti-irritant properties and a small quantity of it can be applied on the chest daily (in paste form).

  1. Liquorice

Anyone suffering from pneumonia knows the terrible coughs that accompany it. The best way to relieve this is by using liquorice which helps build a protective mucus in addition to being anti-viral and antibacterial.

  1. Sesame Seeds

If you have a huge build-up of phlegm, sesame seeds can be boiled in water and consumed after straining to get relief from phlegm.

  1. Ginger

This one is an age-old remedy which every grandmother recommends when one is suffering from cold and cough. Ginger tea or soup is a good option to relieve congestion and pain.

  1. Steam Bath

The best thing to do when you have severe pneumonia is to take a hot shower and use a few drops of essential oil such as lavender, camphor or eucalyptus.

  1. Parsnip Juice

The vegetable contains many vitamins and potassium that is great for treating pneumonia.

Now that you are aware of the signs, causes and symptoms take necessary precautions to avoid pneumonia during pregnancy and keep yourself and your baby healthy.

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