Catching A Virus While Pregnant

I wouldn't wish pregnancy illness on my worst enemy

After the first trimester, which was accompanied by nausea and vomit, I was looking forward to a more pleasant second trimester. I yearned for some semblance of a normal life where I could be social and enjoy my work. I heard (from friends, blogs, and family) that I would finally feel like myself again…for at least few months before the discomfort of the third trimester began. However, as I entered month four, I began to feel an ominous tickle in my throat that I knew could only mean one thing: illness was approaching.

A few days into some intense coughing, I decided to go to the doctor. I was diagnosed with a viral chest infection that depleted my already shrinking lung capacity, giving me a deep cough and taking away my voice entirely. I was exhausted. I couldn’t walk from bedroom to bathroom without having to stop and catch my breath, and couldn’t stop coughing for more than a minute. This was prior to the virus moving into my sinuses to fully incapacitate me.

I’m not very good at being sick to begin with. I seem to regress to small child status, every symptom magnified, carrying me slowly toward what seems like death’s door. But illness during pregnancy will top the charts.  Here is why catching a virus while pregnant is the worst:

You can’t take drugs

I believe the exact words the doctor used were ‘Toughen Up.’ She couldn’t and wouldn’t give me any medication for my ailments, bar an inhaler to help me catch air. This was for two reasons: a) antibiotics don’t work on viral infections and b) oh yes, I am pregnant and drugs aren’t good for growing fetuses. This also means that over-the-counter medicines such as cough syrup, cold & flu tablets and even ibuprofen are also off the table. 

Luckily, I was brought up on a lot of herbal remedies for cold & flu such as lemon and honey, garlic tea and oil of oregano. Unfortunately, many of these home remedies (as I have learned them) include, or are followed by, at least one shot of whisky.  As I’m sure you know, shots of whisky are also a no-no during pregnancy.

I was stuck with hot lemon & honey, Vapor Rub, Tylenol and lots of long sleepless nights propped up in my bed.

Nature has some great substitutions for over-the-counter drugs but a cough unlamented by Robitussen is the epitome of unfair.  

You’ve got parental guilt/worry

Worrying is inevitable. From the moment one discovers that they are pregnant, the rest of their life is spent worrying about the wellbeing of their child. While ill, I thought, “If I feel this awful, my baby must feel awful too.”

With every cough that shook my belly, I worried that my baby was also rocked. With every guttural nose blow, I was scared that I had deafened my boy with noise and vibrations. With every attempt to catch my breath, I was scared that I was also depriving my baby boy of oxygen, thereby condemning him to some sort of brain deficiency for life.

While I am sure this was over-dramatic, these thoughts still paraded through my head day after day. The parental guilt that accompanied this chest infection was as bad as the illness itself. 

There’s a lack of immune system support

My immune system was not supportive of my body during this time but I came to terms with that fact. My parental guilt was slightly relieved by assurance from my doctor that the baby was very safe. Not only was he cushioned in placenta and amniotic fluid, my immune system was being rerouted to primarily protect the baby. I learned that while I was suffering from a host of awful viral symptoms, my baby was oblivious to anything beyond his cocoon. I’m not sure if this is entirely true (he may have felt the coughing slightly), but it helped me maintain a tiny bit of sanity.

Not that that helped my symptoms any…

Needless to say, I made it through. For a while it felt like it was touch and go (swoon) but with time (a good few months in fact), I came out the other side and I finally feel like myself again. I will say, however, that being sick while pregnant is the worst. Between the worry, the lack of immune support and medication, I have decided that I would not wish pregnancy illness on my worst enemy.

Fingers crossed I don’t catch a summer cold!

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