Swollen Lymph Nodes in Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Swollen Lymph Nodes During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Lymph nodes are tiny, bean-shaped clusters that are a part of the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are the most important component of the immune system. They play an important role in the immune response of the body by filtering the lymphatic fluid and trapping the infectious particles and serving as the barriers of the body. Swollen lymph nodes indicate that something is wrong with the immune system. If you have swollen lymph nodes during pregnancy, you must check with a doctor. Since pregnancy is a delicate phase, you should try to get the treatment for the same as soon as the symptoms are visible.

What Are Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Swollen glands are basically enlarged lymph nodes in the neck region, which you will get as your body fights various infections. During pregnancy, as your body undergoes hormonal and physical changes, the lymph nodes may swell up indicating that the body is fighting off specific infections. Lymph nodes are placed around the throat, under the jaw, under the arms, in the groin, behind the ears, and at the base of the skull. Having swollen glands during pregnancy is very common – you can check with your doctor if the condition lasts for more than a week or two.

What Causes the Lymph Nodes to Swell During Pregnancy?

Your lymph nodes may swell during pregnancy in response to an infection or illness. Having swollen lymph nodes is a sign that your lymphatic system is functioning well. Sometimes the swelling may occur under the arm due to milk production in the breasts or in the neck region due to infection in the upper respiratory system in pregnancy. It can also be caused due to parasites found in soil and cat litter or due to uncooked meat containing parasites. Enlargement of the gland is sometimes gradual or rapid. The other reasons responsible for it are common infections, immune system disorders, cancer, etc.

Can Pregnancy Hormones Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

It is very unlikely that pregnancy hormones can cause swollen lymph nodes. But pregnant women have been known to get concerned over what they think are swollen lymph nodes in pregnancy but, in fact, are special tissues that are gearing up for milk production.

Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes During Pregnancy

Exposure to bacteria or virus can cause swollen lymph nodes. The symptoms of swollen lymph nodes include a runny nose, fever, sore throat, etc. A fixed and hard rapidly growing node indicates a tumour. If you have an infection or immune disorder, it could also be a sign of swollen lymph nodes. Sometimes night sweats are also a sign of swollen lymph nodes.

A woman with a sore throat during pregnancy

How Are Swollen Lymph Nodes Diagnosed During Pregnancy?

A swollen lymph node can either be very small in size or very large. Swollen lymph nodes are painful to touch and can hurt in case of certain movements. If you have swollen lymph nodes during pregnancy, chances are they will hurt when you chew some food or even turn your neck or head in a certain way. You can check with your doctor if you suspect you have swollen lymph nodes. If your doctor confirms it, he will diagnose further to detect the real cause of swelling in the lymph nodes. Your doctor will ask for your medical history after which he will conduct a physical exam. When the doctor suspects the cause, he may suggest a blood test to confirm or eliminate the suspected cause. If required, an MRI might be suggested to determine the potential source of infection or tumours during pregnancy.

How to Treat Swollen Lymph Nodes While Pregnant?

Here are some treatments for swollen lymph nodes when pregnant:

  • If the swelling in the lymph nodes is due to an infection, it will resolve to normal after the fever returns to normal.
  • If swelling is due to some bacterial infection, it will require antibiotics.
  • Specific treatment will be given to HIV-infected persons.
  • Surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy is suggested for patients diagnosed with cancer.
  • If the swollen lymph nodes are painful, using a warm compress on the affected area can provide relief.
  • An over-the-counter pain reliever can also provide instant relief from pain. However, OTC medications are best avoided during pregnancy.
  • You should drink plenty of fluids to treat swollen lymph nodes naturally when pregnant.

How to Prevent Swollen Lymph Nodes During Pregnancy?

Here is how you can prevent swollen lymph nodes during pregnancy:

  • Practising good health habits and avoiding risky sexual behaviour may help prevent swollen lymph nodes.
  • Pregnant ladies should avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Expectant mothers should follow a healthy diet which is low in saturated fat.
  • You should include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in your diet to prevent complications from arising.
  • Exercise regularly to avoid the amount of fluid in your body.

When to Consult a Doctor?

If you notice swollen lymph nodes during pregnancy, you must visit the doctor. If the swelling is associated with fever, weight loss or night sweats, it will require a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional so, visit a doctor immediately. If you have swollen lymph nodes which aren’t related to cold or flu, and last for more than a week then also you should seek medical help.

Women can develop many symptoms during pregnancy, but swollen glands are not a typical, normal occurrence during pregnancy. Swollen glands represent enlarged lymph nodes which should not be ignored. They enlarge when immune cells fight infection in the body. It is always safe to consult an OBGYN to know how your pregnancy is progressing and to rule out any complications!


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3. Cytomegalovirus and pregnancy; marchofdimes.org; https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/planning-baby/cytomegalovirus-and-pregnancy

4. Swollen lymph nodes (swollen glands); healthdirect.gov.au; https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/swollen-glands

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Also Read:

Vaginal Swelling in Pregnancy
Nose Swelling during Pregnancy
Lumps in the Armpits When Pregnant
Boils and Painful Bumps in Pregnancy

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