Pneumonia in Pregnancy – Causes, Signs and Treatment

Pneumonia in Pregnancy - Causes, Signs and Treatment

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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, one of which is delicate immunity during the nine-month journey. 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?

What Is Pneumonia?

It is a type of lung infection that is often a severe result of a cough or cold that 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, such as:

  • 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
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID)

Symptoms of Pneumonia During Pregnancy

Pneumonia primarily starts off as flu-like symptoms, and hence it can be difficult to identify it at first. 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 are primarily air-borne, transmitted by sneezing or coughing without covering the 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 originates from a bacteria carried by someone, and is the most common type. The bacteria that cause this include Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae.

2. Viral Pneumonia

The viral type 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 infection called coccidioidomycosis. It can happen in the third trimester, and can occur due to low immunity.

Risk Factors of Developing Pneumonia During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, your body is 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 her risk of contracting pneumonia. Other risk factors are:

Complications of Maternal Pneumonia

You may be wondering, ‘can pneumonia affect pregnancy?’. Well, there are several dangers to both the mother and the baby, if the mother gets pneumonia.

Complications for the mother may be:

  • Dropping levels of oxygen due to congestion, leading to a condition called empyema, where fluids can amass around the lungs
  • Spreading of the infection from the lungs to the other organs
  • Fatal if not treated immediately

Complications for the baby may be:

  • Low birth weight

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 refer to 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, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics which need to be taken over a course.
  • Painkillers or over-the-counter pain relievers may be prescribed to relieve congestion and fever. This is usually acetaminophen.
  • Proper rest and good nutrition is recommended.
  • 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’s sleep and good nutrition, and should wash their hands regularly to avoid contracting pneumonia and other infections.

Effective Natural Remedies for Maternal Pneumonia

  1. Honey

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

  1. Camphor

Two to three drops of camphor oil can be added either to jojoba or olive oil, and rubbed 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, and have a variety of health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties. It can be made into hot tea with turmeric and honey, and consumed daily.

  1. Turmeric

The greatest remedy in Indian households for a variety of ailments is turmeric! It has antiseptic 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. A small quantity of it can be applied on the chest daily (in the form of a paste).

  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 the phlegm.

  1. Ginger

This one is an age-old remedy that 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

You can take a hot shower, and use a few drops of essential oils such as lavender, camphor, or eucalyptus.

  1. Parsnip Juice

This vegetable contains many vitamins and minerals, of which potassium is great for treating pneumonia.

Now that you are aware of the signs, causes, and symptoms of maternal pneumonia, take necessary precautions to avoid pneumonia during pregnancy, and keep yourself and your baby healthy. If you do fall sick, it is recommended that you see a doctor as soon as you feel that the illness is beyond a common cold, so that you can avoid complications. 

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