Fever and Chills During Pregnancy

Serious Causes of Fever and/or Chills

In rare cases, fever, chills, and pain are linked to medical conditions that affect only pregnant women -- not just common illnesses. Here are the symptoms to watch out for, as well as when to call your ob-gyn.

Chorioamnionitis
In addition to high fever and chills, this bacterial infection of the membranes surrounding the fetus (the chorion and amnion) and the amniotic fluid can cause sweating, rapid heartbeat, tender uterus, and unusual vaginal discharge. If an expectant mom has this infection she'll be put on antibiotics and her doctor will deliver the baby. The baby will be checked for the infection and treated with antibiotics as well. If chorioamnionitis is severe or left untreated, the mom may suffer from infections of the pelvic region and abdomen, endometritis, and blood clots, and her baby could have complications including sepsis, meningitis, and respiratory problems. Risk factors for chorioamnionitis include prior amniocentesis (usually in the previous two weeks), and premature or prolonged rupture of the membranes.

Septic Abortion
Septic abortion is when "the uterus and its contents become infected as a result of a surgically or medically treated miscarriage or abortion," Dr. Dweck explains. It occurs in the first trimester, and symptoms include a high fever, chills, severe abdominal pain or cramping, vaginal bleeding and discharge, and backache. If an expectant mom has this condition, she will be treated with antibiotics and her ob-gyn will ensure that her uterus has been completely evacuated. If the condition is left untreated, potentially fatal septic shock may occur; signs include low blood pressure, low body temperature, little urine output, and respiratory distress. Risk factors for septic abortion include poor surgical technique at the time of D&C, preexisting cervical/uterine infection.

Listeria
Listeriosis is an infection that results from consuming contaminated food or water. Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with impaired immune systems are most at risk. "Early symptoms of listeria may include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea," Dr. Dweck says. "Symptoms may occur a few days or even two months after eating contaminated food." If infection spreads to the nervous system, it can lead to headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions. Not all babies whose mothers are infected will have a problem, according to the American Pregnancy Association, but in some cases untreated listeriosis can result in miscarriage, premature delivery, serious infection in your newborn, or even stillbirth. An expectant mom can take antibiotics to help keep her baby safe.

To help prevent listeria, avoid:

  • Hot dogs, lunch meats, or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot
  • Soft cheeses such as Brie or feta unless the label states that they are made from pasteurized milk
  • Refrigerated p?t? or meat spreads (canned are okay)
  • Smoked seafood unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish such as a casserole

Fifth Disease (Parvovirus B19)
Fifth Disease is a common childhood illness, so many adults are already immune to it. "The most common symptom in adults is joint pain and soreness that can last for days or weeks," Dr. Dweck says. "Symptoms of facial rash, slight fever, and sore throat are most common in children." Although it's rare -- less than 5 percent of all pregnant women become infected with parvovirus B19, according to the CDC -- the virus can cause a woman to miscarry or her baby to be born with severe anemia. Call your health-care provider if you think you may have been in contact with a person infected with the virus.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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