Everything You Need to Know About Fever and Chills During Pregnancy

Fever and chills during pregnancy can have many causes, ranging from common illnesses to more serious conditions. Here's what to do if you notice these symptoms while expecting.

Ill woman looking at thermometer.
Photo: Guido Mieth/Getty Images

It's never normal to run a fever or experience chills when you're pregnant. If you do, you may have an illness that's completely unrelated to pregnancy, says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., an OBGYN in Mount Kisco, New York.

"It's easier to become sick when you're pregnant because your immune system is naturally suppressed," says Dr. Dweck. But there are some more serious conditions directly related to pregnancy that can cause these symptoms, too. Consult our guide to learn about the illnesses and conditions that may be to blame, as well as when to call your doctor.

Common Causes of Fever and/or Chills During Pregnancy

If you're feeling feverish, have a case of the chills, or are experiencing flu-like body aches during pregnancy, you may have one of these common bugs. But rest assured: They're all temporary and treatable!

However, if you're pregnant and have a fever, you should always call your doctor right away, as a fever could pose a risk to you and your baby, especially if you're fewer than 37 weeks pregnant or in your first trimester.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Up to 10% of expectant people will get a urinary tract infection (UTI) during their pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes. Your urinary tract system encompasses your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. An infection occurs when bacteria gets into this system and multiplies.

Most UTIs are bladder infections and aren't serious if they're treated right away with antibiotics and lots of liquids. If left untreated, however, a bladder infection may travel to the kidneys and cause a variety of complications, including preterm labor, a low birth weight baby, and sepsis.

Some UTIs are asymptomatic, but others come with symptoms such as a strong urge to urinate, a burning sensation with urination, cloudy urine, and/or blood in the urine, along with fever, chills, and pelvic pain.


If you’re experiencing fever or chills along with other symptoms such as flu-like body aches or coughing, you may have influenza. Pregnant people are at higher risk of getting the flu and becoming severely ill from it, as their immune systems are suppressed.

How to tell if it's the flu or just a cold? The flu comes on quickly and your symptoms are more severe than with a cold, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH). If you suspect that you may have the flu, see your doctor right away. They'll likely recommend rest and plenty of fluids, along with an antiviral medication to shorten the span of your symptoms and prevent serious complications.

Common cold

We've all experienced this viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the sinuses, nasal passages, pharynx, and larynx. You may have symptoms that mirror the flu, as well as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and breathing difficulty.

Dr. Dweck notes that an upper respiratory infection is not as serious as the flu and usually resolves spontaneously. The symptoms usually last from 3 to 14 days, and you can treat them at home. If you're still sick after several days, however, you may have a more serious infection (sinusitis, bronchitis, strep throat, or pneumonia), so it's important to call your doctor.

Gastrointestinal (GI) virus

The diarrhea and vomiting brought on by a GI bug can have serious consequences for pregnant people, if left untreated. Why? Because dehydration can cause contractions, preterm labor, and other potential side effects, like hypotension, dizziness, weakness, fainting, and, in severe cases, electrolyte imbalance. Most cases of these viruses will resolve on their own, but fluids such as water and Gatorade, as well as the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) are helpful.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that you call your doctor immediately if you've not been able to keep liquids down for 24 hours, you've been vomiting blood, you have signs of dehydration (little or no urine, dry mouth, excessive thirst, dizziness), you notice blood in your bowel movements, or you have a fever above 101 degrees.

Serious Causes of Chills and/or Fever During Pregnancy

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


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 a pregnant person has this infection they'll be put on antibiotics and their 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 expectant parent may experience infections of the pelvic region and abdomen, endometritis, and blood clots, and their 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," explains Dr. Dweck. Symptoms include a high fever, chills, severe abdominal pain or cramping, vaginal bleeding and discharge, and backache. If an expectant parent has this condition, they will be treated with antibiotics and their OB-GYN will ensure that their 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 and preexisting cervical/uterine infection.


Listeriosis is an infection that results from consuming contaminated food or water. Pregnant people, newborns, older adults, and adults with impaired immune systems are most at risk. "Early symptoms of listeria may include fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea," says Dr. Dweck. "Symptoms may occur a few days or even two months after eating contaminated food." If the infection spreads to the nervous system, it can lead to headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions.

Not all babies whose gestational parents are infected will have a problem, but in some cases, untreated listeriosis can result in miscarriage, premature delivery, serious infection in your newborn, or even stillbirth. Expectant parents can (and should) take antibiotics to treat the infection and help keep their baby safe.

To help prevent exposure to 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 meat spreads (canned are OK)
  • 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," says Dr. Dweck. "Symptoms of facial rash, slight fever, and sore throat are most common in children."

Although rare—less than 5% of all pregnant people become infected with parvovirus B19, according to the CDC—the virus can cause miscarriage and severe anemia in babies. Call your health care provider if you think you may have been in contact with a person infected with the virus.

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